“Love and Other Tragedies” by Red Molly

Red Molly
Love and Other Tragedies
Red Molly
4 stars (out of 5)

Red Molly is an all-female trio of very talented folks based out of Stony Point, N.Y. that have put together an extremely entertaining project called Love and Other Tragedies.

Although this CD isn’t exactly in my musical wheelhouse it is an excellent project with great use of vocal harmonies as well as a good variety of material ranging from Melissa Monroe’s “Is the Blue Moon Still Shining” to Gillian Welch’s “Wichita”.

Five of the thirteen songs on this project were written by band members Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner and Carolann Solebello and they stand up well along side songs written by other, more recognized songwriters. As singers, these ladies show that they can handle up tempo tunes as well as slow contemplative ballads with equal ease.

The ladies are ably accompanied on this project by Jake Armerding on fiddle, Duke Levine on mandola and electric guitar and lap steel, and Mike Weatherly on bass, with some vocal help from Anthony da Costa, Fred Gillen Jr. and Steve Kirkman.

“Wichita” is an excellent song to open the CD as it shows the difference between the use of mandola as opposed to mandolin. The mandola is a much more weighty instrument and gives the whole CD a darker tone with much more low end.

“Beaumont Rest Stop,” written by Laurie MacAllister, is all about leaving home when you really don’t want to and coming home when you have to. “The Mind Of A Soldier,” written by Abbie Gardner is a ballad of longing for the soldier gone to war and the need for a man, hopefully the right one.

“Summertime” is Carolann Solebello’s contribution to the songwriting aspect of the CD and is a reflection on home and the simple life as opposed to something more complicated.

Melissa Monroe’s “Is the Blue Moon Still Shining” has a Laurie Lewis-like sound to it, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The Dobro is particularly effective in this piece and the harmonies make for a very smooth presentation.

“Honey on My Grave” is another Abbie Gardner written song and, to mind, speaks of getting earned respect.

“Old Dancin’ Fool” is an old fashioned waltz type tune that has a nice flow and the laziness  of it all is very relaxing, with the song suggesting that we “close our eyes and hold to each other” and everything will be OK.

“Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia” is a strong swing tune with a bluesy turn that makes good use of vocals and the mandola fits it very well.

“Wayfaring Stranger” is traditional song that has been arranged a hundred different ways but this arrangement, although not a lot different from most, has a haunting sound with the mandolin backed by the lap steel and fiddle.

“This Farm Needs A Man,” written by Laurie MacAllister is all about the trials and tribulations of men gone off to war and the woman doing the “best I can” under the circumstances.

“Make Me Lonely Again” is about the plight of the wallflower who finds a mate and wishes that she could return to the wallflower life where she was happily lonely and didn’t realize it.

“Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” is a very old song that may have been first recorded by Rev. Gary Davis. In the bluegrass genre it is probably best know by Hot Rize ,but Red Molly does a credible job in keeping the lamp trimmed and burning in anticipation of the returning of the Lord.

“May I Suggest” is an a cappella number that is an apt ending to the CD as it features the honey sweet vocals of Red Molly.

All in all this is a very strong performance and certainly deserves a listen. A solid four stars out of five.

by Charlie W. Hansen

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“Young Man, Old Soul” by Brandon Rickman

Brandon Rickman
Young Man, Old Soul
Rural Rhythm Records
4 stars (out of 5)

From the first note to the last Brandon Rickman leaves no doubt that he is a singer of unbridled passion and unquestionable attack. His delivery leaves nothing to chance as he charges his way through the twelve cuts on this CD. Sometimes the instrumentation is sparse and that lets us to enjoy his smoke-infused voice.

“Rain and Snow” is a perfect example of the simplified arrangements that appear on this CD. “What I Know Now,” “So Long 20’s,” and “Dime Store Rings” are great examples of what can be done with guitar and vocals, allowing the story to ring through with no distractions.

“I Take The Backroads” could well cross over and be a hit in contemporary country music. The Jerry Salley written song has that contemporary feel without being out of place on this CD. “I Bought Her A Dog” adds a bit of humor to the project. After all, who can resist a song about a dog?

“Wide Spot In The Road” is an ode to the home town, why we love it, why we leave it and why we always want to go back.

There are a couple songs that feature limited instrumentation coupled with thick layers of harmony. “Rest For His Workers features the Scruggs like finger-style guitar that became a staple of the bluegrass gospel genre in the heyday of Flatt and Scruggs. The harmonies on this number are flawless. “Wearing Her Knees Out Over Me” is a tribute to mama and how she prayed for her boy and never gave up.

The Chris Stapleton written “Always Have, Always Will” is the perfect vehicle to carry the bluesy vocals that seem effortless for Rickman.

“Let Me Walk Lord By Your Side” is a tip of the hat to tradition and tradition never sounded better than in the most capable hands of Brandon Rickman. I’m sure Carter Stanley would be proud of the treatment given to his song. The team of Brandon on guitar and lead vocal and Andy Ball on mandolin and harmony vocal is just what this song needs to make it fresh and new. The treatment given to this song sounds more like classic Monroe Brothers or something that would have been recorded by Skaggs and Rice on their duet album than the Stanleys but it sure works.

Young Mr. Rickman, besides being a great musician and singer, is also a first rate tunesmith. His “Here Comes That Feeling Again” is a gem. His voice takes a turn to the more mellow side as he takes us through this saga of lost love. Brandon shows his versatility by playing guitars, bass, and mandolin as well as handling lead vocals. This tune will stand up well in contemporary bluegrass with it’s softer edge and intermediate tempo that seems to be more prevalent today than in the past.. The old saying that you never hear a song done better than when the writer does it holds very true in this case.

This CD is packed with great talent and it shows. The lineup includes all the greats in acoustic music, Randy Kohrs (resonator guitar), Aaron McDaris (banjo), Terry Eldridge (harmony vocals), Andy Ball (mandolin and harmony vocals), Jamie Johnson (harmony vocals), Larry Cordle (harmony vocals), Janee Fleenor (fiddle and harmony vocals), Shelby Kennedy (harmony vocals), Tammy Rogers (mandolin and harmony vocals), Ben Daniel (guitar), Kim Gardner (resonator guitar), Mike Anglin (bass,) Jerry Salley (harmony vocals), and Val Storey (harmony vocals). The combination of Brandon and Janee Fleenor on “Rain and Snow” is particularly striking for it’s lonesomeness. H

I’m sure Brandon Rickman will be around for a long time whether a lead vocalist for the legendary Lonesome River Band or on his own.

by Charlie W. Hansen

“In God’s Time” by Barry Scott & Second Wind

Barry Scott & Second Wind
In God’s Time
Rebel Records
4 stars (out of 5)

It may be a bit unusual for a bluegrass band’s initial recording to be a gospel effort, but this recording by Barry Scott & Second Wind not only serves as a debut but also as a vehicle to show off the instrumental and vocal prowess of this band still in its infancy.

Barry Scott is an alumnus of the Doyle Lawson school of bluegrass and this shows in the tight harmonies and sometimes understated instrumentation. Barry served as lead vocalist for Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver for nine years before branching out on his own.

From the up tempo numbers, “Take A Moment And Live” to the more country-oriented tunes like “The Only Thing That Matters” this is a first-rate CD. Well produced by Barry Scott and the band, this CD will stand up well and should receive some attention for gospel project of the year at the various bluegrass award shows.

The a cappella number “A Glorified Body” is a showcase for the group’s ability to sing strong, close harmony. I guess every reviewer should have a favorite song on a project and mine is “Oh What A Day”. This number moves along quite well and is still able to allow the vocals to shine.

“In God’s Time” features a number of high-powered guests such as Vince Gill, Kenny Smith, and Ron Inscore to mention a few. I think the band stands alone very well but you can’t go wrong with the addition of such legendary performers.

Barry Scott & Second Wind are Barry Scott on guitar and lead vocal, Jason Leek on bass and vocal, Matthew Munsey on mandolin and vocal, Travis Houck on Dobro and vocal, and Zane Petty on banjo. Put it all together and it makes for a great sound.

by Charlie W. Hansen