We received two fine CDs recently, from artists whose music may not be familiar to a wide listening audience. Both projects have their roots in the rich, fertile “bluegrass crescent” that encircles eastern Kentucky and Tennessee along with western Virginia and North Carolina.
Tim Carter, along with his brother Danny, has been performing as The Carter Brothers since 2001. These Carters claim a distant relation to the legendary Carter Family, and bring their traditional music roots to their more eclectic, blues/rock/bluegrass show. Brother Tim now has his own solo releases, and he steps forward as the bluegrass part of the band’s equation. Ten songs, all but on written or co-written by Carter, feature Tim as a fine instrumentalist and a vocalist as well. Guests include Tim Stafford, both on guitar and as co-writer on several tracks, plus Rob Ickes on dobro, Casey Driessen on fiddle and Alison Brown on second banjo on a tune she and Tim wrote together.
Tim’s compositions for banjo tend towards the progressive realm, but his songs have a very traditional feel to them. The mix provides the artistic tension for Bang Bang, and makes for a very enjoyable listen.
Tommy Webb’s new CD is entitled Eastern Kentucky, and he has called on some of the heavy hitters from that region of the country to assist him. Banjo legend JD Crowe supplies some words of praise on the back cover, and while his touring band of Chris Goble (banjo), Tadd Huff (bass) and Kenny O’Quinn (mandolin) supports him on a few cuts, the bulk of the recording features one of my very favorite bluegrass bands – Ron Stewart and Harold Nixon.
Ron supplies banjo, mandolin and fiddle on most of the tracks, and adds his guitar and resonator guitar to a few others. His New South bandmate Nixon provides bass on these same tracks, and the effect is quite powerful. I’ve suggested here in the past that Stewart is the most accomplished bluegrass musician of his generation, and those abilities are clearly on display here. He also produced and recorded this project, which has his sparkle all over it.
But Ron’s wizardry is not the main focus here, it’s Webb’s hardcore bluegrass singing and songwriting. A highlight is his grassified reworking of Clinton Gregory’s country hit, (If It Weren’t For Country Music) I’d Go Crazy, which reemerges as If It Weren’t For Bluegrass Music I’d Go Crazy. If you are familiar with the original, the clever retooling of the lyrics will be especially enjoyable.