My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: The Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band

Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2013

This year has seen some excellent albums released. I had to leave off my final top ten fine records by Amber Digby, Ashley Monroe, Jamie Richards, Julie Roberts and Eric Strickland. The most notable thing for me has been the resurgence in artistic terms at least, if not commercial ones, of great female voices. Last year none of my top albums was from a female artist. This year there are four solo women (all excellent writers as well as singers, although one chose to release predominantly covers this time), four male leads, and two mixed duos, and while I don’t like quotas or judging for anything other than the quality of the music, increased diversity of life experience can only be good for the variety of experiences reflected in the music.

10. Old Yellow MoonEmmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell
The long awaited reunion project was a delight, and well worth the wait. Seeing them live was a personal highlight of my year.
Best tracks: ‘Dreaming My Dreams’, ‘Here We Are

roots of my raising gregory9. Roots Of My RaisingThe Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band
Another project presenting country classics with bluegrass arrangements. Clinton Gregory’s underrated tenor matches his fine fiddle playing, and his excellent vocal interpretations make this one worth hearing.
Best tracks: ‘New Patches’, ‘Roots Of My Raising’, ‘I Never Go Around Mirrors’

8. Made To LastJoey + Rory
While not really groundbreaking, the latest from husband and wife duo Joey Martin and Rory Feek contains some beautiful songs, tastefully produced. The couple may slow down their busy schedule next year and they are expecting their first baby together in the spring, but this (and the year’s earlier religious album) will keep fans going.
Best tracks: ‘Just A Cup Of Coffee’, ‘Now That She’s Gone’, ‘50,000 Names’ with a bonus mention for ‘The Preacher And The Stranger’ on Inspired.

showin my roots7. Showin’ My RootsDonna Ulisse
A delightful mix of country and bluegrass on a collection of the songs which inspired Donna. She’s a fine bluegrass singer and songwriter – but her majestic alto is petrfect for traditional country, and setting them against beautifully played bluegrass abackings is the best of both worlds.
Best tracks: ‘If That’s The Way You Feel’, ‘Somebody Somewhere Don’t Know What He’s Missing Tonight’, ‘In The Good Old Days When Times Were Bad’

6. Brothers Of The HighwayDailey & Vincent
The best duo in bluegrass return with their first secular album of new material since 2009. This is spectacular playing and singing, a masterclass in bluegrass.
Best tracks: ‘When I Stop Dreaming’, ‘Hills Of Caroline’, ‘Brothers Of The Highway’

i let her talk5. I Let Her TalkErin Enderlin
It only had nine tracks, which lost it a few points, but the outstanding quality of the songs and Erin’s strong voice meant this forced its way onto my top 10 list.
Best tracks: ‘I Let Her Talk’, ‘Get That At Home’, ‘Last Call’, ‘Monday Morning Church

4. The HighwayHolly Williams
Hank Jr’s daughter comes of age as an artist with this fine singer-sogwriter record. Her sultry voice, the tasteful production and excellent songs combine to make a memorable listening experience.
Best Tracks: ‘Giving Up’, ‘Drinkin’’, ‘Waiting On June

randy3. Influence Vol 1:- The Man I AmRandy Travis
Randy Travis has seemed to be on a downward spiral both personally, with well-publicised troubles with the law and an increasingly concerning alchol problem, and professionally, with his voice showing disturbing signs of deterioration. His health took a turn for the worse this year, but his Haggard-heavy album of classic covers was an unexpected highlight of the year. The man who was at the heart of the revival of more traditional styles of country music in the 1980s reveals his greatest influences, and is back in better voice than he has been for some years. the slightly lopsided selection of material may be a casualty of his health issues – perhaps more recording sessions were planned. I only hope that he recovers and a Volume 2 may be a possibility.
Best tracks: ‘What Have You Got Planned Tonight, Diana’, ‘I’m Always On A Mountain When I Fall’, ‘Someday We’ll Look Back

2. BakersfieldVince Gill and Paul Franklin
I wouldn’t necessarily have associated Vince Gill’s honeyed tenor with the Bakersfield sound, but his labor of love collaboration with steel player Paul Franklin was a revelation. Vince’s heartfelt interpretations of these classics breathes new life into them.
Best tracks: ‘Holding Things Together’, ‘Branded Man’, ‘But I Do’, ‘Together Again

12 stories
1. 12 StoriesBrandy Clark

The songwriter has been very successful in recent years selling her songs to more mainstream acts, but it turns out she kept her best songs for her own album. She serves up a dozen believable slices of life on her debut album, a pointed reminder that at its best country music is the genre which records real lives in troubled times. Ranging from the quirky wit of single ‘Stripes’ to dark cheating songs like ‘What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven’, and taking in the soothing sweetness of ‘Hold My Hand’ and ‘Just Like Him’, this is one of those rare albums without a weak track, and one which demonstrates that contemporary country can be great. Brandy also has a rich, expressive voice. Much-deserved critical acclaim has not yet been matched by sales – but this is an outstanding record.
Best tracks: ‘What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven’, ‘In Some Corner’, ‘Take A Little Pill’, ‘Pray to Jesus’, ‘Just Like Him

Album Review: The Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band – ‘Roots Of My Raising’

roots of my raising gregoryFiddler-singer Clinton Gregory grew up in rural Virginia, and played bluegrass locally as a child prodigy. Now, after last year’s delightful reminder of his talent as a straight country singer, he has returned to that first love and formed a bluegrass band, naturally taking fiddle (and acoustic guitar) duties and lead vocals himself. This album showcases this new direction with a mixture of bluegrass and country classics, all delivered in traditional bluegrass style with the less traditional but attractive addition of a harmonica on a number of tracks. The band plays brilliantly throughout, but it is the vocals which stand out. There is a good range of tempos, and producers Jamie Creasy and Scott Vestal do a fine job. The album was actually released a few months ago, but has only just come my way.

The mainly up-tempo bluegrass songs are well played with solid harmonies and excellent instrumental work, but it is not unfair to note that Clinton brings little that is really new to songs like ‘Sittin’ On Top Of The World’ which have been done so many times before, perhaps because the fast pace does not allow for as much emotional input as the country songs included, which are mostly ballads. They are nonetheless enjoyable tracks, thanks to solid musicianship and Clinton’s thoughtful vocals, brisk on ‘How Mountain Girls Can Love’, sincere on ‘Little Cabin Home On The Hill’, and high lonesome on the slower ‘Dark Hollow’. A nicely sung take on Flatt & Scruggs’ plaintive ‘Somehow Tonight’ was my favorite of the bluegrass chestnuts. There is also a sparkling instrumental on traditional fiddle tune ‘Katy Hill’.

Giving country songs a bluegrass makeover is much more successful, and I really loved all these tracks, notwithstanding the songs’ familiarity. Three of them are Merle Haggard songs. I loved Clinton’s understated and faintly melancholy version of the title track, which he manages to make sound like his own experiences – quite an achievement for such a personal song. It works perfectly in a bluegrass setting (with added harmonica). ‘Looking For A Place To Fall Apart’ has an acoustic country rather than bluegrass feel, but is quite lovely, with Clinton’s lonesome fiddle supporting his dejected vocal. I wasn’t familiar with the third Haggard song, ‘Living With The Shades Pulled Down’, which has a rather odd lyric about a man in love with a prostitute, but it made for a solid banjo-led up-tempo bluegrass number.

An intimate, deeply sad version of ‘I Never Go Around Mirrors’ is very fine, and I also loved Clinton’s beautifully measured vocal on ‘New Patches’. He closes with an original religious song, the somber and heartfelt ‘Crucifixion’.

This may not get as much attention as Alan Jackson’s bluegrass album, but it is an excellent record with great appeal for country and bluegrass fans.

Grade: A