Several country artists have made the leap to bluegrass in recent years, with most of them simply returning to the music they grew up loving and performing. Clinton Gregory is among the latest artists to make the change from country back to bluegrass. Although Gregory had several songs on the country charts in the 1990s, he actually began his career playing the fiddle. Now, he has returned to bluegrass with the appropriately titled debut album from the Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band, Roots of My Raising.
Gregory samples from both classic country and bluegrass on this album, with eleven of the twelve tracks covers of old favorites from artists such as Merle Haggard and Flatt and Scruggs. Gregory’s vocals have a definite country flair, with a bit of a Keith Whitley sound, but for the most part, the music is modern traditional bluegrass. The addition of a harmonica on a few tracks lends itself to more of a country sound, but sounds a little out of place.
The album gets off to a good start with the driving How Mountain Girls Can Love, which has nice instrumental solos. Little Cabin Home on the Hill is also well-done, with a straightforward traditional bluegrass sound. The country-style vocals don’t work quite as well on Somehow Tonight, although Gregory adds tasteful fiddling throughout. He further shows off his fiddling skills on the album’s lone instrumental, Katy Hill, which also has some fine banjo work from Scott Vestal, and strong support from the rhythm section.
A number of Merle Haggard cuts are included, such as the title track, which Haggard took to number one in 1976. This tune about returning home is an enjoyable, mid-tempo acoustic number, with harmonica taking the place of the original’s steel guitar. Living With the Shades Pulled was previously given a bluegrass treatment by the McPeak Brothers, and Gregory’s upbeat version with its mandolin intro pulls from that cut more so than Haggard’s.
Gregory lets his ’90s country background shine on I Never Go Around Mirrors, putting in a performance that Keith Whitley fans will surely appreciate. New Patches, a top ten hit for Mel Tillis, has a similar sound. Gregory does a nice job on these country heartbreak tunes, and his voice fits the material well. The album’s closing track (and its only original), the Gospel piece Crucifixion, has the same acoustic country feel for its moving narration of Jesus’s death on the cross.
Gregory, who also plays guitar on the album in addition to his fiddling and lead vocal duties, is joined by a talented band. Vestal and Harold Roper trade out on the banjo throughout the album, while Doug Flowers plays mandolin and Scott Terry rounds things out on bass and harmonica.
For more information on the Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band, visit www.melodyroundupmusic.com. Roots of My Raising can be purchased from a variety of online music retailers.