Poor Mountain Records
This album’s attention-grabbing set of hard bluegrass songs presents a genuine breakout for Carolina Blue. That backstory of a western N.C. band named Carolina Blue releasing an album called Sounds Of Kentucky Grass further distinguishes the album in a crowded marketplace. Although noted for their original songs (Balsam Range has recorded “Spring Will Bring Flowers” by mandolinist Tim Jones), this album almost entirely consists of covers of compositions by Lawrence Lane and his bandmate Jimmy Dutton. Living in Ohio around 1970, those two formed the Kentucky Grass, one of the very few bluegrass bands at that time focused on original material (it included Dwight Dillman on banjo). Lane was Jones’ great uncle and from him, Jones “inherited” the songs on Sounds Of Kentucky Grass.
Carolina Blue did a favor for all who appreciate hardcore bluegrass music by reviving these songs which largely contain all the lyrical and musical attributes of classic bluegrass. The album contains too many good-to-excellent tracks to list them all. The very best consist of the exceptional “Hell Come The Night,” “No Room In My World,” and the rousing “Bonnie Goodbye.” The only substandard one is the lead off “Enoch’s Still,” which suffers from being too busy instrumentally.
The band formed a decade ago when its guitarist Bobby Powell and Jones recorded a Woody Platt produced album. Counting that, which the band does, makes Sounds Of Kentucky Grass their fourth project. Bassist Reese Combs and James McDowell on banjo complete the ensemble. The amazing and too-little-appreciated David Johnson guests on fiddle on a dozen of the 14 tracks. Johnson’s playing provides many highlights, whether kicking off tunes, taking breaks, or inserting fills at just the right moment. He sets the bar very high for Carolina Blue’s regular fiddler playing live. McDowell also stands out with strong backup and solo playing. Sounds Of Kentucky Grass will prove one of the best projects of the year by a band with which most readers were not previously familiar. (www.carolinablueband.com)AM