The new CD from Randy Kohrs landed in my inbox a couple weeks ago, but I just found the time to listen to it recently. What a treat I had been denying myself!
Randy and team have hit it out of the park with this recording. Composed of 13 tracks, the CD takes its name from the fifth track, Quicksand. Randy has earned his stripes as a producer in recent years, and he proves with this CD that he can fill that role even when he’s producing his own project.
I had first heard a preview of the CD when the first track, Devil of the Trail, was released to bluegrass radio. Sitting down and listening the entire 13 track arrangement was a pleasant experience. All of the material is strong, with not a single track being skipped, even upon repeated listening. Though I will admit a few tracks did get repeat business!
The track being highlighted on bluegrass radio currently is More About John Henry. It’s a fun track written by Tom T. Hall, purporting to give John Henry’s backstory. John Henry is a legendary character in the landscape of American music, and many songs have been written about him. The one bluegrass audiences are most familiar with tell the story as if John Henry was a workaholic. According to More About John Henry, such wasn’t always the case. There was a time when had a life of romance and danger away from his work laying steal. Fiddle player Ashley Brown tells me a correction is in order concerning the background vocals on the track.
A mistake was made on the credits for that song that we feel terrible about – all the background vocals were done by Scat Springs, though Regina McCrary did contribute to the “Oohs” on the short breakdown section towards the end. Scat did all the other parts. The text in the artwork was rushed and things slipped through the cracks like that…
Another track worth some attention is the final track on the CD, Down Around Clarksdale. This song contains strong blues elements, and Randy tells us the song is being considered for use in the soundtrack for a new movie called Mud Dog Blues.
Bluegrass purists might take some issue with the use of drums on several of the tracks, but I found they were so tastefully woven into the sonic tapestry of the music that I didn’t even notice them until after I read in the credits that they were there.
I have to mention a couple of what I felt were the stand out cuts on the CD.
Time and Time Again proved to be one of my favorites that garnered repeated plays. This struck me as song I would likely here in jam sessions in the future. Penned by Randy and Dennis Goodwin, it contains my favorite set of lyrics on the CD. The chorus reads as follows:
Time and time again you left me cryin’
Time and time again you made me blue
You two timed me this time, one time too often
And now it’s time to watch me leavin’ you
The arrangement of the final chorus includes some precisely timed punches that serve to drive the closing bars of the song in an exciting way.
I had anticipated the title track, Quicksand, as a burning instrumental. I was surprised to discover it was a slow tempo, reflective vocal tune with a great message. I don’t know if it will happen, but this track seems like it would appeal well to audiences of both bluegrass, Americana, and even country radio. Which is probably why it was chosen as the title track.
The Del Reeves song This Must Be the Bottom, turned out excellently. My only disappointment with Randy’s cover is that he chose to forgo the section toward the end where Reeves would typically talk for a verse and then roll his tongue before ending the song. Then again, Reeves’ version never included the great picking and tight rhythm section Randy brought to the song. Over all an enjoyable track that brings a smile to my face still.
All the tracks are good, and I could continue at some length describing what I enjoyed about each song. Instead, I’ll just include a couple song clips to give you a taste, and recommend that you pick up a copy for yourself. You won’t regret it. I know it’s only January, but I’m ready to predict that Quicksand will still be in my top 5 albums for 2010 come next January.
[http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/more_about_john_henry.mp3] – More About John Henry
[http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/time_and_time_again.mp3] – Time and Time Again
The band sent along these photos from a recent Friday night performance on the Grand Ole Opry. Personnel include Randy Kohrs, Ashley Brown on fiddle, Stephen Mougin filling in on guitar, Elio Giordano on bass, Dave Racine on drums, and Mike Sumner on banjo.