In bluegrass music, we have a King and a Queen, a Father and Daughters. What’s next? Gentlemen, perhaps.
Recently making their debut on Pinecastle Records are the Gentlemen of Bluegrass, a North Carolina-based group with a strong, smooth traditional sound. Their new album, Carolina Memories, showcases fine vocals and instrumentation that fans of first- and second-generation bluegrass will surely enjoy.
The fourteen-track collection was produced by Lorraine Jordan (whose husband, Tom Langdon, is the band’s resonator guitarist), who also contributes two original songs and guests on mandolin on several cuts. The traditional-yet-fresh sound that Jordan and Carolina Road have made their own is present here, though the Gentlemen of Bluegrass have pulled more from the sounds of the 1960s and ’70s than earlier decades.
The album opens up with the title track, one of Jordan’s originals. It’s an upbeat number anchored by Randy Smith’s banjo that tells a familiar bluegrass story: a man who has wandered from home and now longs to return. It’s certainly enjoyable, and also serves as a nice introduction to the warm, rich vocals of Danny Stanley. Stanley’s voice has a classic country sound, and is particularly reminiscent of Jim Reeves.
Stanley’s vocals also fit well with the Southern Gospel sound, which is where It’s a Long Lonesome Road leans toward. It’s another upbeat number with fine harmonies on the chorus. Also on the Gospel side of things, the band includes a moving a capella version of Amazing Grace and Father’s Table Grace, a recitation song which finds the singer reminiscing about his father’s simple yet strong prayers.
>The Gentlemen of Bluegrass have borrowed from another set of Gentlemen for several of the songs here. The Country Gentlemen’s This Morning at Nine is one of the album’s strongest tracks, fast-paced and with fine lead vocals from mandolin player Julian Rowland. Waltz of the Angels is also well-done, with great high harmonies from Rowland. Traveling Kind is perhaps the most similar to the previous version, shot through with lonesome, with driving banjo and tight harmonies. Stanley’s enjoyable original God’s Country also has a Country Gentlemen feel.
The band members obviously respect the work of John Duffey. In addition to a cover of the Seldom Scene’s Keep Me From Blowing Away (featuring excellent resonator guitar work from Langdon and fine mandolin and fiddle from guest Josh Goforth), they have included Tribute to John Duffey, written by Jordan. The song recalls Duffey’s passing and his lasting legacy from the perspective of a fan and friend.
Stanley (guitar), Rowland (mandolin), Langdon (resonator guitar), Smith (banjo), and Greg Penny (bass) have put together a solid effort for their introduction as a band. Though the Gentlemen of Bluegrass might be a new name to most listeners, they have a time-honored sound that fans should like.
For more information, visit their website at www.gentlemenofbluegrass.com. Their new album can be purchased from several online retailers.