Sunday, August 21, 2011

Uprooted Album Revue 8/21/11

  The Uprooted Album Revue highlights new releases, reissues, and my own latest discoveries. 

This edition of the Uprooted Album Revue includes the O Brother, Where Art Thou 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, With Body and Soul: A Bluegrass Tribute to Bill Monroe, Let The Light Shine Down: A Gospel Tribute to Bill Monroe, Blue Moon of Kentucky: An Instrumental Tribute to Bill Monroe, as well as Nikki Lane's Gone, Gone, Gone EP.

Various Artists
O Brother, Where Art Thou? 
10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
(Lost Highway)

It's hard to believe that it has been a decade since the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack album was released. In addition to being a surprising success in music history, it is also one of the 10 top-selling soundtracks of all time. To celebrate it's 10th anniversary, and once again with producer T Bone Burnett on board, O Brother, Where Art Thou has been reissued as an expanded 10th Anniversary, 2-CD Deluxe Edition set.

A lot has been written and said about O Brother, Where Art Thou?, specifically how this highly enjoyable album injected such a strong shot of public appreciation back into roots, bluegrass, and old-time music. The album attracted a lot of new fans to this music, as well as reminded faithful loyalists of the infectious and captivating power that this music so strongly maintains. For many newcomers, O Brother, Where Art Thou?  expanded their album collections, especially those who may have never owned a "bluegrass album".  

O Brother inspired countless enthusiasts to expand their musical horizons further, allowing folks everywhere to dig into this music that possesses such a powerfully rich history that still stirs the souls of so many today. I'm sure that artists like Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Norman Blake, John Hartford, Ralph Stanley and many more made their first appearances in many new listeners' record collections from their work on O Brother.

The new and expanded O Brother Where Art Thou? 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition has arrived just in time to capture the hearts of new listeners once again, while also offering fans of the original collection more material to dig deeper into. In addition to the original album that includes the Grammy winners "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" (by Dan Tryminski, Harley Allen, and Pat Engright) and "O Death" (by Dr. Ralph Stanley), this anniversary set includes a bonus disc of 14 songs. 12 of these 14 songs on the bonus disc were recorded during the original sessions, and most of them went unheard in the film.

The second disc of this new O Brother, Where Art Thou? set features artists who appeared on the original album: John Hartford, Norman Blake, the Fairfield Four, the Cox Family and the Peasall Sisters), as well as some who only appear here: Colin Linden, Alan O'Bryant, Ed Lewis and Van Dyke Parks. This new edition is a reminder of how lasting the original set is, while offering us even more rewards this time around. Well worth picking up.

Various Artists
With Body And Soul: A Bluegrass Tribute to Bill Monroe
Let the Light Shone Down: A Gospel Tribute to Bill Monroe
Blue Moon of Kentucky: An Instrumental Tribute to Bill Monroe
(Rural Rhythm)

On September 13, 2011 music fans everywhere will be celebrating what would have been Bill Monroe's 100th birthday. To mark the occasion, a number of Monroe-dedicated tribute albums have begun to slowly emerge leading up to this centennial celebration. One of my favorites, Blue Moon of Kentucky: An Instrumental Tribute to Bill Monroe, which was released via Rural Rhythm Records earlier this year, is a stellar set of master musicianship and virtuosity, featuring some of the best players around today, honoring the creator of bluegrass. The players include Mike Scott (banjo), Adam Steffey (mandolin), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Tim Stafford (guitar), Rob Ickes (dobro), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Mike Compton (mandolin), and Ben Isaacs (bass). It's the best instrumental tribute to Monroe's work that I have heard this year. Awesome.

With an excellent instrumental tribute to Monroe already in my possession, I was thrilled to add these two outstanding releases that further explore Monroe's work. Rebel Records has released two budget-priced collections that explore the man's vast discography: With Body and Soul and Let The Light Shine Down. Rebel has recorded numerous pieces that were written by or associated with the Father of Bluegrass Music over its 50 years. These include tunes and that were played by other first and second generation bluegrass legends as Ralph Stanley, Mac Wiseman, Don Reno and Red Smiley, Red Allen, the late Kenny Baker, Tony Rice, Del McCoury, and The Seldom Scene among others.

While both volumes each offer 17 tracks, With Body And Soul focuses on classic bluegrass songs and instrumentals while Let The Light Shine Down collects an impressive variety of gospel numbers. Both albums include previously unissued recordings, as well as superb, extensive song notes by well-known Monroe biographer Neil V. Rosenberg.

With Body and Soul features renditions of Monroe classics by such legendary artists as Dr. Ralph Stanley, Wiseman, Kenny Baker (who appears with Monroe on "Road to Columbus"), Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Don Rigsby and The Lonesome River Band. Let The Light Shine Down digs deep and offers spirituals by The Stanley Brothers, The Country Gentlemen, Don Reno And Benny Martin, Del McCoury, Larry Richardson, Dave Evans and Junior Sisk And Ramblers Choice among others.

It should also be noted that these performances include appearances by many players who have at one time or another,  played in the Blue Grass Boys themselves, including Sonny Osborne, Carter Stanley, Bobby Hicks, Bill Keith, Richard Greene and Peter Rowan.

If you pick up With Body And Soul and Let the Light Shine Down from Rebel, and then grab a copy of Blue Moon of Kentucky: An Instrumental Tribute to Bill Monroe from Rural Rhythm you'll be set for Monroe tributes. That is of course if you can pull yourself away long enough from the Monroe recordings themselves to give these each a few spins.

Nikki Lane
Gone, Gone, Gone EP 

Originally from Greenville, South Carolina, Nikki Lane crisscrossed the country following dreams of fashion and music. The songwriter landed in Los Angeles with an open mind, followed her ambition to New York City, but ultimately Ms. Lane decided to pack it all up and head down to Nashville to give music her best shot.

More than just a quick teaser to a her upcoming full-length, Lane's Gone, Gone, Gone EP offers a satisfying taste of what this remarkable new artist has to offer. Throughout it's short and sweet 10 minutes or so, Gone Gone Gone squeezes in four memorable tunes that take the listener from the sun-baked deserts of the west, to the hustle and bustle of New York, as well as down to the steamy summer neon-lit honky-tonks down south. Sure a shot of nostalgia is in the mix, but Lane wisely balances the sounds of the past with an ear to country classics, and matches it with a voice that can turn the clock back.

Listening to the tunes here, with song titles like "Western Bound", "Down To The Wire", "Comin' Home To You", and the title track- you get a sense of where this ramblin' girl is coming from. Sonically, there's plenty of seductive pedal steel, cinematic electric guitar, and tumbling drum roll back beats, to lay the groundwork for solid classic country and rock and roll numbers. It's good company to be in, and Nikki knows it. Ms. Lane's magnetic personality shines through her tunes as she belts it out and gives each song a well-worn, dusted off, and "lived-in" kind of sensibility. Simply put: Gone, Gone, Gone is a fun little joyride. Pick it up to hold you over until Walk of Shame drops on September 27th.

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