Tag Archives: Bluegrass

A Chiseled Bluegrass Sound Grounded By Tradition

NewTown – Old World (Mountain Home Music, 2018)

The group NewTown has on tap Old World on the Mountain Home Music label and this sweet little bluegrass recording will certainly get the juices flowing. Following up on recordings Harlan Road and Time Machine, this Lexington, Kentucky based group gathers up all the goodness of bluegrass by way of fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar and still manages to put a fresh voice on the genre. Putting polish on NewTown’s bright sparkly sound is producer Barry Bales from Alison Krauss and Union Station fame.

NewTown members, fiddler and vocalist Kati Penn, banjo player and vocalist Jr. Williams, guitarist and vocalist Aaron Ramsey, bassist Travis Anderson and mandolin player Mitchell Cannon have crafted a fine sound that is grounded by tradition and set free from those traditions by degrees through their own sound. NewTown is fresh and inviting.

Opening with “Fly Away,” NewTown takes flight with Ms. Penn’s vocals sure to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, add in fiddle, guitar, mandolin and bass and all is right with the world.

Moving through tracks like “Evangeline,” “Heart of Stone,” “Laura Lee” and “Forgotten War” NewTown grows as sweet and comfortable as driving down a long road in a old truck with a good dog.

“The Harvest” is certainly a standout with soulful vocals and some brilliant fiddle lines, just as “Naomi Wise” shimmers bright and clear with Ms. Penn’s crystalline vocals against a truly twangy goodness.

Closing out with “Never Miss the Sun.” Old World wraps up potent mix that sure to snag fans.

Old World puts NewTown squarely on the musical map and we can’t wait to see where we’re going next.

Buy Old World


Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen to Release You Can’t Stand The Heat in 2019

Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen

Virtuoso newgrass mandolinist Frank Solivan and his band Dirty Kitchen have announced the release of a new album titled You Can’t Stand The Heat. The album is set for release on February 8, 2019 on Compass Records. This new project is being co-produced by Alison Brown, Compass co-founder and Grammy winner, and will feature guest vocal appearances from Danny Paisley, Dudley Connell. Michael Cleveland also appears on fiddle.

Frank Solivan left Alaska and moved to Washington, D.C., where he’s built a great reputation as a formidable mandolinist. The band includes award-winning banjoist Mike Munford, award-winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton.

Frank Solivan’s discography includes I Am A Rambler ‎(2009), On The Edge ‎(2013), Cold Spell (2014) and Family, Friends & Heroes ‎(2016).


Mandolin Orange Release Time We Made Time Music Video

Rising Americana and bluegrass stars Mandolin Orange have released “Time We Made Time,” a track from its upcoming album ‘Tides Of A Teardrop’ (February 1, 2019 on Yep Roc). The duo has revealed a splendid video for the single.



Mandolin Orange is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It includes Andrew Marlin on vocals, mandolin, guitar, banjo and Emily Frantz on vocals, violin, and guitar. Mandolin Orange is known for its beautifully constructed vocal and instrumental interplay.

The group’s earlier recordings include Quiet Little Room (2010), Haste Make / Hard Hearted Stranger (2011), This Side of Jordan (2013), Such Jubilee (2015) and Blindfaller (2016).


Third Meeting of the Mandolin Virtuosos

Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg – Third Journey (Adventure Music, 2018)

Two of the leading American mandolin players, Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg, reconnect again for the third time. Third Journey contains a set of superb mandolin duos showcasing the virtuosity of both musicians. The music is inspired by bluegrass and other forms of American traditional music, along with Brazilian sounds, Bach and jazz-infused improvisation.

Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg met in 2007 at the Mandolin Symposium in Santa Cruz, California. Although they had heard about each other, had each other’s albums and respected each other’s playing, they had not met formally. The duo’s first collaborations was titled Mike Marshall & Caterina Lichtenberg (Adventure Music, 2018) with a focus on Bach, Brazilian music, Bulgarian traditions and bluegrass music. The second album, JS Bach (Adventure Music (2015) was dedicated to their favorite composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

On Third Journey, Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg deliver impeccable mandolin virtuosity and intuitive interplay.


The Earls of Leicester to Release Live at the CMA Theater in September 2018

The award-winning sextet, The Earls of Leicester, is set to release an album titled Live at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Recorded during two nights, the 23-song set, features 14 new performances, and fan favorites from their two previous studio albums. The release date is September 28th, 2018.

The Earls of Leicester includes Jerry Douglas, Shawn Camp, Barry Bales, Johnny Warren, Charlie Cushman, and Jeff White.The ensemble’s previous albums include Earls Of Leicester (ganador del Grammy al mejor album de bluegrass) and Rattle & Roar.

Live at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame will be available in both CD and vinyl.


Symphonic Bluegrass

Balsam Range and Atlanta Pops Orchestra Ensemble – Mountain Overture (Mountain Home Music Company, 2018)

Balsam Range, one of the finest acts in the current bluegrass scene, has recreated some of its cherished songs in Mountain Overture. It’s a collaboration with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra Ensemble (a 14-piece version of the 36-piece Atlanta Pops Orchestra).

The new versions of well-known Balsam Range songs take a different form, mixing the rural mountain music of North Carolina with classical music. It’s a beautiful combination that enriches the band’s sound and gives the songs a new life.

Balsam Range and Atlanta Pops Orchestra Ensemble have performed together in the past two years and showcased the album at major bluegrass events this year.

Mountain Overture is a masterfully sculpted album that brings together traditional and academic music, recreating memorable songs by Balsam Range.

Buy Mountain Overture


Masterful String Intensity by Kittel & Co.

Kittel & Co. – Whorls (Compass Records, 2018)

Whorls is the debut album of a superb string band led by fiddler Jeremy Kittel, who was a member of the renowned Turtle Island Quartet. The ensemble features 5 talented musicians who deliver an exquisite mix of American and Celtic roots music, jazz and classical music.

The majority of the tracks on Whorls are instrumental, showcasing the instrumentalists’ virtuosity, improvisatory skills and melodic creativity. Mesmerizing vocals are featured on two tracks, provided by Kittel and Sarah Jarosz, who adds spellbinding ethereal harmonies.

The lineup on Whorls includes Jeremy Kittel on violin, viola and vocals; Josh Pinkham on mandolin; Quinn Bachand on guitar; Nathaniel Smith on cello and organ; and Simon Chrisman on hammered-dulcimer. Guest: Sarah Jarosz on vocals.

Whorls is a masterfully-crafted with stellar violin, cello, mandolin, guitar and hammered dulcimer performances.

Buy Whorls


Artist profiles: Unspoken Tradition

Unspoken Tradition

Unspoken Tradition is a North Carolina bluegrass band inspired by traditional music and other influences. Their material is primarily original and mirrors the ever-changing culture of Western and Central North Carolina where they are based.

The band released an independent debut album, Simple Little Town (2013) that was well received. Their follow up recording was Miles Between (2015).

In 2015, Unspoken Tradition played the main stage at the historic MerleFest festival and has quickly grown a dedicated following in North Carolina and beyond.

The Unspoken Tradition lineup in 2018 included Audie McGinnis on guitar and vocals; Lee Shuford on bass and vocals; Zane McGinnis on banjo; Ty Gilpin on mandolin and vocals; and Tim Gardner on fiddle and vocals.


Simple Little Town (2013)
Miles Between (2015)


Artist Profiles: Druha Trava

Druha Trava

Druha Trava (Second Grass) was formed in 1991 in the Czech Republic. Their musical heritage comes from a place far from the Appalachian communities where bluegrass originated.

Since its formation, Druha Trava has achieved star status in their Czech homeland and the group is one of the most awarded and internationally acclaimed European bands. Each of the five members is a masterful multi-instrumentalist whose influences include bluegrass, jazz, rock, country, folk and classical music.

Druha Trava was co-founded by Robert Krestan, the group’s lead singer and principal writer. In the Czech Republic, Krestan is recognized as one of the premiere stars of bluegrass and country music. He credits the “tramp movement” with the extraordinary popularity that bluegrass music is presently enoying in his country. (In the Czech Republic, the expression “tramp music” refers to an ever-evolving style that combines such Western influences as swing, country and bluegrass.)

Krestan explains that this affinity for Western music was inspired further by Pete Seeger who toured Czechoslovakia in 1962 and introduced the 5string banjo to a population that was unfamiliar with the instrument. As a result of Seeger’s musical ambassadorship, many musicians began to play stringed instruments, learn the melodies of traditional American folk and bluegrass songs and adapt Czech lyrics to fit the melody lines. Robert Krestan and Druha Trava are expanding that trend by performing songs in both Enghsh and Czech languages.

Druha Trava came together in 1991, and have become known as one of the most successful international “bluegrass” bands of all time. They have been voted Band of the Year by the Czech Recording Industry (formerly Czech “Grammy” awards), as well as by the Banjo Jamboree Festival in Strakonice. In addition to Krestan, Druha Trava includes the following members: Lubos Malina (banjo player and co-founder, who Dirty Linen Magazine describes as “unquestionably one of the best banjo players in Europe”), Lubos Novotny (Dobro), Martin Ledvina (guitar), and Jiri Meisner (bass).

Individually, each of these musicians has received numerous yearly awards as Instrumentalist of the Year on his respective instrument. Together, they have created their own exciting brand of progressive bluegrass which has made them one of the best selling bands of any genre in the Czech Republic, and has earned them appearances or recording collaborations with Ricky Skaggs, Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan, Andy Owens and the Irish superstar, Davy Spillane.

Czechmate was Druha Trava’s sixth album and first US release.


Robert Křesťan a Druhá Tráva (Bonton, 1991)
Revival (Monitor, 1992)
Starodávný svět (Venkow, 1994)
Druhá Tráva s Pavlínou Jíšovou (Venkow, 1995)
Second Grass Live (Venkow, 1995)
Postcard (Venkow/Polygram, 1997)
Czechmate (Venkow, 1998)
New Freedom Bell, with Peter Rowan (Compass Records, 1999)
Best and Last (Venkow, 2001)
Nech svět, ať se točí dál (Venkow, 2002)
Live in Brno (with Charlie McCoy Venkow, 2004)
Good Morning, Friend (Universal, 2004)
Dylanovky (Universal, 2007)
Marcipán z Toleda (Universal, 2011)


Randy Scruggs Dies at 64

Country and bluegrass guitarist, producer and songwriter Randy Scruggs died on April 17, 2018. He won four Grammy Awards and was named “Musician of the Year” at the Country Music Association Awards two times. He was the son of Earl Scruggs.

Randy Lynn Scruggs was born on August 3, 1953. He participated in his first recording at the age of 13. He worked with some of the finest artsts in the country and bluegrass genres. He released an album titled Second Generation Scruggs (Vanguard Records) with his brother Gary in 1970 and a solo album, Crown of Jewels (Reprise Records, 1998).

Four-time GRAMMY winner Randy Scruggs was a celebrated musician, producer, and songwriter,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “Throughout his extensive career, he collaborated with an impressive roster of fellow country and bluegrass artists, including Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and Dolly Parton, among many others. He earned his first GRAMMY in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category for “Amazing Grace” at the 32nd GRAMMY Awards and went on to win three additional GRAMMYs in the same category for “A Soldier’s Joy,” “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” and “Earl’s Breakdown.” As the son of bluegrass pioneer and Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Earl Scruggs, Randy continued his family’s musical legacy and was one of Nashville’s most esteemed producers and session players, leaving a lasting mark on Music City. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and collaborators during this difficult time.”