By Larry Stephens
Sign me up as a Kristy Cox fan. I liked her 2014 release and I really like this new CD. I like her voice, I like the songs, she has some great accompaniment, several studio musicians who appeared on her previous CD. Mike Bub anchors it all on the bass with Justin Moses adding Dobro. Stephen Mougin is the guitarist, Steve Sutton plays banjo and Jason Roller adds fiddle and mandolin. Vocalists Jerry and Maggie Salley complete the ensemble. Good, great, excellent. According to her website, she was shortlisted among the names for the IBMA Female Artist and Emerging Artist awards.
Here’s the warning for bluegrass purists: it sounds more like late–era country than bluegrass. That doesn’t reduce my liking or praise one bit but if you look back at my previous review you’ll see I said the same thing then, so IBMA has me confused. CMA and all the other “country” awards shows (let alone the Grammy awards) have kicked sand in the faces of country music performers by adding to the illusion that rock–pop is country music. So what is the IBMA up to?
Anyway, “Young Love Never Grows Old” (composed by Cox and Jerry Salley) is a nice song about love that showcases some great fiddle paying from Roller. Cox and Salley have a hand in composing most of the songs. “You Walked In” is another they co-wrote and makes a great country song about the blues disappearing when love walks through the door. “Baby, You Ain’t Baby Anymore” is a hot country number from the pens of Salley and Terri Clark fiddler Jenee Fleenor. The band shows it can play hot music on this one. It’s no surpise they play good music. Roller has played with a long list of country musicians while Sutton began his career with Jimmy Martin. Country and bluegrass. Moses can play every bluegrass instrument. He’s been on the road with Ricky Skaggs and been on stage with Del McCoury, Brad Paisley and Barry Gibb — that’s some diversified talent. Mougin has played with Sam Bush and now tours with Sirius XM host and bluegrass banjoist Ned Luberecki. Bassist Mike Bub has a storied career with a long list of accomplishments including thirteen years playing bass for Del McCoury. The band has the chops in acoustic music.
Cox wraps her voice around a song of sentiment like Chris Stapleton’s “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Here Anymore” and sells the pathos. She’s equally at home with a good, hard–driving bluegrass number like “I’m No Stranger To This Lonesome Road.” This diversity keeps the CD and stage shows interesting. The cut I like best is a bluegrass murder song penned by Cox and Allan Caswell, “William Henry Johnson.” That’s fine music.
Country, bluegrass or whatever, Cox is a fabulous singer. Yes, indeed, sign me up as a fan. Now I have start writing down the lyrics to “Johnson.”