After three decades spent playing with regionally-based artists, and stints with the Little Roy and Lizzy Show and the Clinton Gregory Band, Georgia-based mandolin player Doug Flowers has recently released Doug Flowers and Friends, filled with a number of his own original compositions alongside bluegrass classics. Flowers has called upon many of his musician friends, including former bandmate Gregory, Frances Mooney, Rebekah Long, and banjo master Scott Vestal (who also produced and engineered the project), among several others. The result is a solid, traditionally-based effort.
Flowers, whose songs have been recorded by artists like Ronnie Bowman, Valerie Smith, and Little Roy and Lizzy, wrote or co-wrote half of the album’s tracks. Things kick off with All Over Me, an upbeat, straightforward, modern traditional tale of a man who learns of his wife’s cheating ways written by Flowers and Gerald Smith. The chorus includes a bit of clever wordplay as the singer sees his wife with another man: “She was all over me, by the way she was all over him.” Flowers and Smith collaborated with Gregory on Run Willie Run, which tells about a fictionalized version of one of Gregory’s fiddle-playing, moonshining ancestors. It’s cut from the same cloth as a number of other recent moonshiner songs, with the added twist of the song’s main character teasing lawmen by playing his fiddle while they were hunting for his stills.
Flowers wrote Lisa Lee with Jim Iler, who also plays guitar on this track and several others throughout the album. The song, a hopeful number about cautiously falling in love, was written close to thirty years ago, when Flowers was dating the “Lisa Lee” of the song’s title. He shares in the liner notes that they’ve now been married for twenty-six years. Born Again, another Flowers/Smith co-write, is a cheerful song that mixes Gospel themes with the ever-popular bluegrass love of home: “I was born down in Georgia, and it’s still sweet home to me, but I was born again up in Tennessee.”
Of the covers on the album, Beautiful One is probably the standout. It’s a contemporary Christian song that’s been recorded by a number of artists in that genre, but Flowers has reworked it into an excellent contemporary bluegrass Gospel song. This track was a family effort, with wonderful lead vocals from Flowers’ daughter Tabor Henson and a strong rhythm section from son-in-law Brandon Henson on guitar, and son Torey Flowers on bass. If Flowers happens to be looking for a different direction to point his next album, this song could certainly be a good jumping off place.
Other highlights are the classic country-leaning cut of Making Plans, with fine harmonies from Iler (lead), Flowers (baritone), and Vestal (low tenor), and a faithful version of Carter Stanley’s Ridin’ That Midnight Train. Though Vestal’s banjo playing normally wouldn’t be compared to Ralph Stanley’s, he tackles the Stanley style with ease here. The album closes with a chance for Flowers to show off some hot mandolin picking on Rawhide, a song, according to the liner notes, that earned him a new F-style mandolin from his dad when he learned to play it in his youth.
Though Doug Flowers and Friends utilizes a number of musicians throughout the project, it still has a unified feel, thanks to the traditional-leaning sound running throughout the album. Flowers proves himself a triple threat here, offering strong vocals, picking, and songwriting. Since the release of this album, he has begun booking shows as The Doug Flowers Band. More information about the album and the new group can be found at www.dougflowersmusic.com.