One Man Show

SCI Fidelity

30dbThere’s been no shortage of jam bands in the post-Grateful Dead era: Blues Traveler, Phish, moe., String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee and Widespread Panic, as well as countless “newgrass” groups including Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band and Blueground Undergrass.

A few recently have displayed a balance of quality musicianship, arrangement, restraint and vocals that places them in the same league as the good ol’ Dead.

Widespread Panic, for one; witness their latest, “Dirty Side Down.” But another, unexpected outfit is 30db: a side project consisting of Umphrey’s McGee guitarist Brendan Bayliss; Yonder Mountain String Band mandolinist Jeff Austin; North Mississippi Allstars drummer Cody Dickinson; Hot Rize guitarist Nick Forster; and Open Road bassist Eric Thorin.

The brainchild of Bayliss and Austin, 30db’s sound is driven by Bayliss’ electric guitar and Austin’s equally weighted mandolin, which at any minute could be serving a lead, rhythm or harmony function. The combination makes for a fresh approach in a genre that’s been slightly stale of late.

Trading off lead vocals from song to song, the two sing of something found to be in common after their paths crossed on the road enough times, something that was the catalyst for forming the group: recent breakups with significant others.

Despite such downer subject matter, the disc manages to be upbeat, rocking and — first and foremost — jamming!gnm_end_bug

1. One Man Show
2. Always Up
3. Susanah
4. Liar
5. Backfire
6. Automatic
7. Lick #6
8. Grave
9. Return Item
10. Instrumental In D
11. Get In Line
12. One More
13. Wadmala
14. Backbone

Total time: 47:30

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The Black Crowes

Before the Frost … Until the Freeze

Silver Arrow

crowesIf Warners Bros. Records were still around — that is, the late-1960s/early ’70s version that nurtured artists and allowed them to experiment and evolve unfettered by corporate formulas and quotas — the Black Crowes no doubt would be on it.

If the Crowes had been around in 1969-75, they would have fit right in alongside such acts as the Beau Brummels, Van Morrison, Faces, Grateful Dead, Ry Cooder, Little Feat and Tony Joe White.

The recent addition of Luther Dickinson (slide guitarist extraordinaire for the North Mississippi Allstars) is the best thing to happen to the group in a long time, giving it a country-blues edge just when it needed to reinvent itself after a four-year sabbatical. Dickinson also brings wisdom to the table via his late father Jim, who produced many of Warner’s best bands in its heyday.

Brimming with newfound confidence after their return to form on last year’s “Warpaint,” the reconstituted Brothers Robinson and Co. recorded five nights of gigs in front of a handpicked audience in February and March at Levon Helm’s barn. They culled two discs’ worth of new material and released half as the CD “Before the Frost …” with a code to download the remaining “… Until the Freeze.”

Others have released double albums for the price of one, and the Crowes aren’t the first to release a new batch of songs as live tracks. But it’s probably safe to say they’re the first to do both simultaneously.

More of a standard Crowes album, “Frost” includes “Good Morning Captain,” which could pass as a lost Little Feat song somewhere between their first two albums; the Grateful Dead-like “Houston Don’t Dream About Me”; and the Beatlesque “And the Band Played On.”

But it’s “Freeze” that’s the real treat, chock-full of bluegrass and country indulgence. The instrumental “Aimless Peacock” is reminiscent of Loggins and Messina jams like on “Pathway to Glory” and “Be Free.” Bluegrass is even more prevalent on “Garden Gate,” bringing to mind Jim Lauderdale’s work with Ralph Stanley or Steve Earle’s collaboration with the Del McCoury Band. And “Roll Old Jeremiah” is as good a slice of country-rock as anything from Poco, Pure Prairie League or New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell sat in throughout the shows, embellishing select songs with his formidable banjo, fiddle and pedal steel work.gnm_end_bug

1. Good Morning Captain
2. Been A Long Time (Waiting On Love)
3. Appaloosa
4. A Train Still Makes A Lonely Sound
5. I Ain’t Hiding
6. Kept My Soul
7. What Is Home
8. Houston Don’t Dream About Me
9. Make Glad
10. And The Band Played On
11. Last Place That Love Lives
… UNTIL THE FREEZE (free download)
1. Aimless Peacock
2. Shady Grove
3. Garden Gate
4. Greenhorn
5. Shine Along
6. Roll Old Jeremiah
7. Lady Of Avenue A
8. So Many Times
9. Fork In The River

Total time: 1:40:56

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Blueground Undergrass



In their previous incarnation, experimental bluegrass outfit BGUG had a six-piece lineup that included pedal steel. But the group broke up in 2002 after four years and three albums, leaving peers Yonder Mountain String Band, Railroad Earth and the now-defunct Leftover Salmon to kick out the jams.

About a year and a half ago, banjoist/leader Jeff “The Reverend” Mosier reformed the band as a five-piece, leaving out the pedal steel. Back for more on “Faces” is original fiddler David Blackmon, who’s played for everyone from Jerry Reed to Widespread Panic. New guitarist Matthew Williams, formerly of Capt. Soularcat, brings more rock to the sound as well as five tunes to the record. Bassist Francisco Fattoruso (son of Argentine keyboardist Hugo) plays a mean five-string but apparently for the album only. Matt Cowley, from another Mosier group, the Ear Reverants, is in the drummer’s seat.

The Reverend contributed three tracks: “Ole Love Ole Tune,” featuring Col. Bruce Hampton (ret.) and Jimmy Herring, two of Mosier’s old bandmates from the Aquarium Rescue Unit; “Clock Goes On”; and the title track, a song that he says came out “in one piece” after he nearly drowned.

Rounding out the set are cover songs of Guy Clark (“Dublin Blues”), Ralph Stanley (“Clinch Mountain Backstep”), Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter (“Black Muddy River”) and Bill Danoff (“Potter’s Wheel”).

1. Faces
2. Dublin Blues
3. In This Life
4. Our Feet
5. Feel At Home
6. Clock Goes On
7. Like Discovering The Ocean
8. Renee
9. Potter’s Wheel
10. Clinch Mountain Backstep
11. Ole Love Ole Tune
12. Black Muddy River 

Total time: 1:04:03

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Yonder Mountain String Band

Mountain Tracks: Volume 3

Frog Pad

These guys be jammin’. In their first two years, Yonder Mountain String Band went from playing Colorado coffee shops with a dozen people in the audience to gigging at prestigious bluegrass and folk festivals and selling out small venues across the land.

Now, six years and six albums (three studio, three live) into it, the four-piece jamgrass outfit has headlined major venues in the western United States and boasts a loyal following known as Kinfolk. More than 330 of the band’s shows can be downloaded free and legally at Internet Archive’s Live Music Archive. And no wonder: They really know how to make those strings smoke!

The “Mountain Tracks” series chronicles YMSB’s annual Kinfolk Celebration at Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, Colo. Volume 3 is the first double-disc entry, with each CD highlighting its own night. Fiddler Darol Anger sits in throughout, and other guests include hot newcomer cellist Rushad Eggleston and fiddle prodigy Brittany Haas, both featured on CD 2’s closing “Peace of Mind > Snow on the Pines > Peace of Mind.”

Also included are four songs written by Benny Galloway, a 30-year veteran of the meatpacking industry who’s also a bluegrass musician and sometimes goes by the name Burle Cletus. YMSB was so impressed by his talent that their third studio album, 2003’s “Old Hands,” was made up exclusively of Galloway compositions.

CD 1
1. Bloody Mary Morning
2. Coo Coo’s Nest
3. Town
4. If There’s Still Ramblin’ In The Rambler (Let Him Go) >
5. Steep Grades Sharp Curves > Ramblin’ Reprise
6. Traffic Jam >
7. Years With Rose >
8. Winds O’ Wyoming >
9. Traffic Jam
10. Holding

CD 2
1. Queen Of The Earth >
2. Train Bound For Glory Land >
3. Little Rabbit
4. Left Me In A Hole
5. Old Plank Road
6. Deep Pockets
7. Maid Of The Canyon
8. Too Late Now
9. Yee Haw Factor
10. Kentucky Mandolin >
11. Peace Of Mind >
12. Snow On The Pines >
13. Peace Of Mind

Total time: 1.9 hours

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Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Welcome to Woody Creek


A couple of things work in this disc’s favor.

First, it’s been four years since the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s last full-length studio album, “Bang Bang Bang,” and that had but one in-house track; so it’s been 10 years since an album of mostly original material (1994’s “Acoustic”).

Secondly, founding member John McEuen, who left in 1987 after a 21-year stretch, rejoined in 2001 — and the extra dimension of a fifth person really makes a difference.

Recorded at Jimmy Ibbotson’s home studio in Woody Creek, Colorado, the record has that “we did it on our terms” feel. In fact, the record label deal came after it was finished.

There’s plenty of banjo and mandolin, occasional fiddle and harmonica, plus electric slide on a few numbers. There’s good-time music; a bluegrass Beatles cover and an interpretation of Gram Parsons/Chris Ethridge’s “She” that sharpens its soul/R&B elements; and a pair of songs illustrating the influence NGDB had on the Eagles (“Old Time’s Sake” and “Any Love But Our Love,” featuring guest steel by Dan Dugmore).

The instrumental “Midnight at Woody Creek” — a variation on the “Dismal Swamp” theme begun on the band’s debut and continued on McEuen’s “String Wizards” in 1991 and again in 2003 on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken Vol. 3” — caps this fine collection. Here’s hoping the band remains free of record-label pressure and continues to make the music it wants to.

1. Walkin’ In The Sunshine
2. Forever Don’t Last
3. Jealous Moon
4. It’s Morning
5. Get Back
6. She
7. Safe Back Home
8. Party On The Mountain
9. Any Love But Our Love
10. It’s A New Day
11. Old Time’s Sake
12. Midnight At Woody Creek

Total time: 44.4 minutes

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