Archive for the ‘ Music Reviews ’ Category

“What’s more quaint, and out-of-time, and culturally beside-the-point than bluegrass?”

A recent article featured on Slate described bluegrass as “quaint, out-of-time, and culturally beside-the-point”. Really? The author, Nathan Heller, or his editor obviously didn’t do much fact checking on such a broad and ignorant statement.

Well Mr. Heller, Bluegrass music laid the foundation for much of the rock and country music we enjoy today. I have included a little video to help you be better informed.

Now that you have a better idea of where bluegrass has been, I would challenge you to check out where bluegrass is today. While the form continues to evolve, bluegrass continues to be relevant to the times. Check our archives for many articles and artist features for further proof that this genre is in fact still very much alive and on the rise.

In the future we would love to see Slate cover more of what’s going on in the Newgrass scene. Perhaps then you would be better informed.

Larry Clark / Bluegrass Activist and Founder of Newgrass Magazine

Original Slate Article

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‘bama Ghost Music

Hailing from Auburn, The Pine Hill Haints has been turning out what they call Alabama Ghost Music since 2000. I’m not sure what exactly Ghost Music is, but I like it.

Jamie Barrier, Haints frontman, was introduced to the Southern musical tradition by his grandfather, and with his grandfather’s influences, he named his new band after the Pine Hill Cemetery where he practiced singing to himself as a kid. Barrier’s Pine Hill Haints now include washtub-bassist and banjo player Matt Bakula, Katie Barrier–Jamie’s wife–on washboard and mandolin, and drummer Ben Rhyne.

Murder in the Mountains – Ballads of Love, Betrayal and Murder

Murder Ballads typically recount the details of a mythic or true crime — who the victim is, why the murderer decides to kill him or her, how the victim is lured to the murder site and the act itself — followed by the escape and/or capture of the murderer. Often the ballad ends with the murderer in jail or on their way to the gallows, occasionally with a plea for the listener not to copy the evils committed by the singer.


Pretty Polly is a song that tells of a young woman lured into the forest where she is killed and buried in a shallow grave. Many variants of the story have the villain as a ship’s carpenter who promises to marry Polly but murders her when she becomes pregnant. When he goes back to sea, he is haunted by her ghost, confesses to the murder, goes mad and dies.


Silver Dagger is an American folk ballad, likely dating to the late 19th century though possibly much older; the first published version appeared in 1907. In the song, the narrator turns away a potential suitor, as her mother has warned her to avoid the advances of men, in an attempt to spare her daughter the heartbreak that she herself has endured.


Banks of the Ohio Is a 19th century murder ballad, written by unknown authors, in which “Willie” invites his young lover for a walk during which she rejects his marriage proposal. Once they are alone on the river bank, he murders the young woman.


Long Black Veil is a 1959 country ballad, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell. It is about a man accused of murder who refuses to provide an alibi because he was having an affair with his best friend’s wife at the time, and would rather die than reveal this. Subsequently, he is executed by hanging, taking their secret to the grave. The chorus describes the woman’s mourning visits to his gravesite in her long black veil. The song is sung from the point of view of the executed man. The writers later stated that they drew on three sources for their inspiration: Red Foley’s recording of “God Walks These Hills With Me”, a contemporary newspaper report about the unsolved murder of a priest, and the legend of a mysterious veiled woman who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino’s grave.


Little Sadie is a 20th Century American folk ballad that is known by many names like “Cocaine Blues” (see below) it tells the story of a man who is apprehended after shooting his wife/girlfriend. He is then sentenced by a judge.


Cocaine Blues

Dark as a Dungeon – Songs of the Mines

Rebel Records has announced that the latest in their Vault Series, Dark As A Dungeon – Songs Of The Mines, will be released at the end of March. The CD will include mining songs from 14 Rebel artists including Blue Highway, Seldom Scene, Larry Sparks, The Country Gentlemen in the mix.

The Vault Series is Rebel’s budget-minded reissue inventory, offering material from their deep bluegrass catalog. Some of these tracks date back 25 years or more, some are fairly new, and one track has never been previously released.

Frank Godbey gives a taste of the theme this project presents in the conclusion to his liner notes.

“Through these songs we can picture the world’s largest shovel overseeing an open-pit landscape, imagine trying to peer through the darkness at the bottom of a deep shaft where daylight never reaches, visualize wives and sweethearts waiting at a mine’s entrance for news of loved ones trapped below, and listen to labored breathing caused by black lung disease—is it any wonder that people sing about the hardships and hazards associated with mining?

Despite the tragic nature of many of these songs, the impact is enhanced immeasurably by their quiet yet undeniable eloquence. These performances give us powerful glimpses into the lives and innermost feelings of miners and their families.”

Perhaps some of these are familiar?

* Green Rolling Hills – Bill Harrell & The Virginians
* A Miner’s Life – The Country Gentlemen
* Paradise – Seldom Scene
* Call The Captain – Steep Canyon Rangers
* Dream Of A Miner’s Child – Whitley & Skaggs
* Black Dust Fever – Wildwood Valley Boys
* In Those Mines – Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike
* Daddy’s Dinner Bucket – Ralph Stanley II
* Digging In The Ground – Larry Sparks
* Coaltown Saturday Night – Randall Hylton
* The River Ran Black – David Davis & The Warrior River Boys
* West Virginia’s Last Hand Loader – Blue Highway
* The Hermit Miner – Perfect Strangers
* Dark As A Dungeon – James Alan Shelton

Dark As A Dungeon – Songs Of The Mines is set for a March 30 release.

Avett Brothers in Athens


Avett Brothers Concert 2/24/10 Review
Via our Appalachian Correspondent, Amy Jones

The Avett Brothers concert on February 24, 2010 in Athens, Ohio was packed with their ever- enthusiastic fans. Coming back from an almost two month break, the bands expected high-energy level wasn’t fully felt until the second half when “I killed Sally’s Lover” was played. With that song, the Brothers were back.

The Ohio University Memorial Auditorium worked well for the Avett Brothers. The sound was cohesive and enjoyable from almost anywhere in the auditorium. A house drummer was used in lieu of Scott or Seth Avett. This kept them from scurry between songs. Aside from the new face at the drums, the focus remained on the music.

The set list was lightly peppered with new material: Four in all from their latest album, “I and Love and You”. Despite the lack of new material the fans were gifted with a rarely performed favorite “November Blue”. The choices for set list set the tone from the beginning as almost melancholy. I did say, almost. The sincerity of the Avett Brothers lyrics pulls us back from the brink by reminding us that the humanity that took us there can save us. This talent is probably a big reason the group appeals to so many. I know it’s why I count myself a fan.