Hi, there... This page is part of the Slipcue guide to various bluegrass artists, which is part of a much larger Hick Music website. This "guide" is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, just a quick look at a few records I've heard recently, as well as some old favorites. Comments or corrections are invited... and recommendations are always welcome!
This page covers the letter "E"
Here's a nice surprise -- a tasty reissue of rare, early '50s country material recorded by bluegrass picker Jim Eanes, who had just left the Flatt & Scruggs band to seek fame and fortune on his own. These are atypical recordings -- a few banjo-based instrumentals speckle the craggy honkytonk that dominates these old Decca sessions. Eanes was clearly emulating Hank Williams (and later, Hank Snow) in his vocals, with a hefty does of Ernest Tubb-style musical arrangements in the mix. Among the pickers present here are a Chet Atkins, Autry Inman, and a young Bobby Hicks on fiddle... nice company, indeed! An interesting cross between hard country and bluegrass, which helps fill in some of the blanks in the husky, blues-laced style that made Eanes's later bluegrass recordings sound so unique. There are plenty of great heart songs and weepers on here, as well as a novelty tune or two, and a trio of Cold War-era patriotic songs round off the album... Nice stuff, well worth picking up!
Jim Eanes "Classic Bluegrass" (Rebel, 1992)
Sweet, understated performances by a competent, assured oldtimer. These tracks, mostly recorded in the late 1970s, have a lovely informality to them. Relaxed, slow-paced, these lilting heart songs pretty much forego the drag-racing instrumental machismo of modern bluegrass, in favor of heartfelt, lingering sentiment braced by melodic simplicity and calm clarity of purpose. The CD reissue also includes about a half dozen newer tracks, recorded in 1987 and '89 with much the same band, anchored by Eanes and lead guitarist Ray Cline... The earlier sessions also include Hershel Sizemore and Rickie Simpkins, and a host of lesser-known pickers. This disc won't catch your stereo on fire, but it's still mighty sweet.
Soulful and sweet. A great, gorgeous all-gospel set, drawn from two albums the Easter Brothers cut for Rebel Records in the early '80s, I Feel Like Traveling Home, from 1980, and 1981's Almost Home. It's beautiful stuff, richly melodic and drenched in the classic 1950s style of Jim & Jesse, with plenty of sweet picking and high mandolin work to guide the songs. This is the sort of gospel bluegrass in which infectious musicality propels each song -- even folks who aren't into the whole Jesus thing should find themselves as drawn in by this disc as anybody else... It's just so darn yummy!
East Virginia "Steel Rails & Sad Tales" (Major Recordings, 2000)
Top-flight, heartfelt, old-fashioned truegrass, with great, grizzled old-timer vocals. The production style is pretty bright, so the instrumental work really leaps out at you. Also, a nice tilt towards heart songs, including a cover of Clyde Moody's "You Caused It By Telling Lies" and the old George Jones chestnut, "Just A Girl I Used To Know," admirably rendered as an acoustic ballad, and several nice original songs written by various band members. Good stuff on a real indie label!
Guitar/banjoist Tony Ellis strays from the orthodoxies (and instrumentation) of classic bluegrass, in favor of a wider range of Southern culture... Traces of Dixieland and riverboat music snake through this album, with folks like Mike Craver (of the Red Clay Ramblers) pitching in, and cello and tuba joining the twangy chorus... It's probably too mellow for most 'grass fans, but it's an interesting approach, with a new twist on some old sounds.
Me, too! Dudley Connell and others pitch in on this relaxed, understated set, with plenty of plain, sentimental, old-fashioned vocal numbers and a gentle sawing fiddle and slow, plunky banjo. These fellas were in no hurry to get anywhere fast, just sittin' around having a fun time playing the goodle stuff. The way we like it.
Folklorist/singer/multi-instrumentalist Tim Eriksen may have come into the public eye by taking part in a really crappy movie (Cold Mountain) but don't hold that against him. This is a really fine, really soulful, thoughtful set of stark, sideways old-timey tunes, stretching the boundaries of Americana past its early 20th Century roots, back into the Civil War and Antebellum eras. Eriksen knows his stuff has a real feel for the material, taking old murder ballads and spirituals like "Omie Wise," "Two Sisters," "Friendship" and "John Colby's Hymn" and giving them his own personal touch. On a couple of tunes he flirts with modernization and anachronisms, for example, blending Tuvan-style throat singing in with the already-nasal Appalachian style (admittedly gimmicky, but it really works) and occasionally entering spacier terrain that might be familiar to fans of old Robbie Basho or Tom Rush albums. Nice record -- worth checking out!
Bill Evans "Native And Fine" (Rounder, 1995)
An SF Bay Area banjo picker who's now part of the esteemed Dry Branch Fire Squad, Evans plunks up a storm on this fine, fluid set. These instrumentals cover a lot of ground; I like the straightforward breakdowns, but the noodly, jazz-tinged bits are pretty creative, and at least he's sticking to traditional acoustic instruments... The album closes with a vocal number, an acoustic swing-tinged version of "Heavy Traffic Ahead"; all in all, a pretty solid album; nothing really revelatory, but pretty nice to listen to.
This fella has an unusual approach to the bluegrass sound, with a simple, declarative vocal style that owes something, I suppose, to Doc Watson -- not quite the streamlined propulsion of mainstream bluegrass, nor the raspier-than-thou hijinks of the old-timey crowd, but something a little more bluesy and country-leaning, yet undeniably in the bluegrass section of the bleachers. This is without doubt one of his best albums, both in terms of his own vocal performance, and the pickers he's got surrounding him. Great song selection, too. Highly recommended.
Another masterful set of story songs and ballads, this time of a gospel bent. Nice stuff, with plenty of sweet picking... Recommended!
Singer-songwriter-banjo plunker Dave Evans has an uneven, slightly lurching quality to his work, hardly the zippin'-along kinda bluegrass you might expect on a Rebel album. There's a bluesy country tinge to this album, almost even a trace of the old singing cowboys... A nice mix of original and traditional material, although with a fairly ragged, highly individual delivery.
This disc is pretty similar to its companion, Just Look At Me Now, with an untamed edge that might through strict-minded bluegrass fans off the mark. Still, there's some pretty accomplished songwriting, and Evan's heart is clearly in his work.
Good, old, rock-solid, high lonesome truegrass, played with liveliness and zest. Evans plunks a mean banjo, Bobby Hicks adds some sweet fiddle and the rest of the band ain't slouches either. There are a couple of great original tunes amid the traditionally-oriented material, as well as a pair of Tom T. Hall songs, too (the record was recorded at Hall's studio in Nashville...) If you like your bluegrass twangy, impassioned and pure, you might wanna check this one out.
Gerald Evans & Joe Mullins "Just Five Strings And A Fiddle" (Rebel, 1995)
Gerald Evans & Paradise "Headin' Home"
Gerald Evans & Paradise "Getting' It Done" (Legend, 2001)
Clattersome, energetic, and pleasantly ragged around the edges, fiddler Gerald Evans and his hillbilly bluegrassers take things back to the days of Mac Wiseman's tinny, tenor-heavy style (which I like a lot), singing with great gusto and sincerity, and letting their rough side drag. About half the songs are gospel oriented, but -- as is often the case -- this is some of the most soulful material on the album; for the more secular-minded among us come gems such as a grassified version of the honkytonk classic, "Fourteen Carat Mind," "The Blue Collar Blues," and a prison song or two. Nice stuff! (For more info, check out the band's website, at www.geraldevansandparadise.com. )
Bluegrass Albums - Letter "F"
Hick Music Index