Given their storied reputation, one might reasonably suspect that the title of Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road’s new album, A Little Bit Of Bluegrass, is more or less an understatement. After all, this is a band that consistently climbs to the top of the charts and has taken home any number of IBMA and SPBGMA awards in the process.
The musicians involved — Allen Dyer (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Ben Greene (banjo/baritone vocals), Kevin Lamm (bass, lead and baritone vocals), Matt Hooper (fiddle), Wayne Morris (guitar, vocals), and of course, Lorraine Jordan (mandolin, lead and tenor vocals) — and various guests (bassist Mike Bub; fiddler, guitar and mandolin player Andy Leftwich; Josh Swift on dobro, Donna Ulisse on harmony vocals; and Barry Bales on acoustic bass) do an excellent job of interpreting a collection of mostly outside compositions, including those written by Larry Nixon, Buck Owens, Gram Parsons, and Tim Massey. Jordan herself contributes two original numbers that measure up with the best of the bunch, Mama’s Cross, a heartfelt tribute to her late mother written with Donna Ulisse, and Melinda, an earnest and engaging mid tempo tune that offers homage to the song’s namesake, and sounds like a future standard itself.
In fact, there’s no shortage of tender trappings. Who’s Going To Tell the Story among them, a song that shares hope that past precepts will carry forward towards the future. On the other hand, the robust revelry of Carolina Pig Pickin’ Time also touts tradition, but belies any sense of sobriety in the process.
Indeed, the music provides a mostly celebratory sound. The title track offers an ode to optimism and the uplifting attitude that music generally inspires. Homesick for the Blueridge, and an upbeat take on the sweetly nostalgia, Hickory Wind, are both earnest and evocative, conveying a sentiment borne from the love of home and hearth. On the other hand, Just An Old Penny (“I’m, just an old penny waiting on a train”) indicates that old age often brings with it regrets and a longing for simpler times. Molly Rose conveys an onlookers admiration for a certain singing star that he worships from afar. It’s tender and tasteful, like the classic folk song it is, spun from traditional tapestry.
Ultimately A Little Bit of Bluegrass is as comforting as that title tune implies, a fine example of why Jordan and company are among the best bluegrass making music today. In their hands, A Little Bit of Bluegrass resonates in an enduring and enticing way.