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Man on a Mission

Mountain Home Music Company’s Darren Nicholson is a man on a mission — and if you think, based on his membership in award-winning bluegrass quintet Balsam Range, that you know what it is, his new EP is going to come as a mighty big surprise.

The aptly titled Man On A Mission — now available for pre-order, add and save ahead of its November 26 release — shows the singer, songwriter and mandolin player in a brand new light, and the revelation comes less than a minute into the searing opener, “Love Is War,” when the sounds of old-time mountain banjo and fiddle give way to a flourish of drums and a muscular country-rock rendition of a lover’s plea to “call a truce — I can’t take it anymore.” From there, with expectations readjusted, the concise, six-song set offers a portrait of Nicholson as a musician as comfortable behind an electric mandolin as a vintage acoustic version, writing songs tailor-made for country-flavored Americana settings.  

Working mostly with fellow Western North Carolinians, from songwriting partners like Charles Humphrey III (Songs From The Road Band) to the A-team session players and producer/keyboardist Jeff CollinsNicholson boldly fulfills his redefinitional mission, serving up a variety of rootsy material — from the lonesome country ballad, “All Night Long” through the tongue-in-cheek boogie-woogie of “Them Hateful Woman Blues” to the gritty R&B of the closing title track (complete with wailing harmonies from local soul singer Leeda Lyric Jones) — without a moment’s hesitation or a single false note. To be sure, there are echoes of predecessors and heroes like Marty Stuart and Darrell Scott, but in the end, this is music that reflects a lifelong musician’s deepest creativity.

“This album is a journey into the human condition, with relationships and feelings turned into an Appalachian Americana roots tapestry,” says Nicholson, who uses a songwriter’s vivid imagery to convey the album’s breadth. “It’s a Saturday night raucous party with dancing, electric guitars and fiddles twangin’ feeding your energy. It’s rockabilly attitude, and it’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s the heartbreak of things not working out and having to return home to regroup. It’s triumph, hope, and positivity set to mountain soul. It’s breaking deals with yourself, and it’s also learning from your mistakes and looking for the bright spot. It’s a lonely Sunday morning, saying goodbye to an old friend. Saying hello to new ones! It’s up, it’s down. It’s a wide mix of music and emotion with the common thread of truth and honesty. It’s from the heart.

“I write about life and the human condition,” he concludes. “I write about things I’ve lived, and I just try to perform them as best I can.”




Chris Jones and the Night Drivers

We Needed This Ride: Chris Jones and the Night Drivers

He’s been called a singer-songwriter who happens to front a bluegrass band, and though the choice is a little more deliberate than that phrase might suggest, there’s still a nugget of truth in the observation, and it arguably applies more than ever to the music on Make Each Second Last, the newest full-length release from Chris Jones and the Night Driversout now from Mountain Home Music Company. Filled entirely with material written by Jones and a handful of collaborators that includes both former and current Night Drivers, it’s the veteran artist’s most original and most varied outing yet — and one that, for good measure, introduces two new members of the ensemble.

Given Jones’ hit making track record, it’s no surprise that the first five singles from the album have already reached #1 on Bluegrass Today’s airplay chart. The title comes from “We Needed This Ride,” the first of those to introduce new members Grace van’t Hof (banjo, ukuleles, accordion, vocals) and Marshall Wilborn (bass, vocals) and, with its thrumming baritone ukulele-driven rhythm, a sign that the band would be serving up a broader range of tones and textures than before. Sure enough, the group’s latest single, “Riding The Chief,” goes still further, with its western swing foundation — right down to the twin mandolins, “sock” style guitar and tasteful fiddle from ace session player David Johnson — reintroducing a sound Jones hadn’t brought into the studio in decades.

Yet while the Night Drivers’ tonal palette might have expanded, there’s no doubt that Make Each Second Last is a Chris Jones album, focusing prodigious songwriting talent on enduring Jones themes that encompass more than the usual bluegrass subjects. There are takes on travel, from “We Needed This Ride” to “Whither You Roam” to “Riding The Chief,”  lost love (“Quiet Click”) and life at home (“Leave It At The Gate”) and abroad (“Silver City”), but there are also meditations on less intimate matters, whether it’s the encouragement to speak one’s mind in “We Need To Hear From You,” the compelling observation of “Everybody’s Got A Line” or the compassionate consideration of common humanity in “They’re Lost Too” and cautious, almost wistful hopefulness of “Bed Of Snow.” Whether written with GRAMMY-nominee Thomm Jutz, frequent collaborator Jon Weisberger, new colleague van’t Hof, veteran mandolinist Mark Stoffel — that would be the album’s lone instrumental, “Groundhog’s Retreat” — or by Jones himself, there’s not a song or performance in the collection that doesn’t bear Jones’ indelibly distinctive stamp.  

With each of the albums he and the Night Drivers have made for Mountain Home — Run Away Tonight (2015), Made To Move (2017), and The Choosing Road (2019) — Chris Jones has dug deeper into a deeply personal synthesis of unique sounds, compelling themes and world-class songcraft, all embedded in a recognizably bluegrass setting, creating a sound whose appeal reaches far beyond the world of bluegrass while remaining firmly grounded within it. On Make Each Second Last, he serves notice that the journey continues.  

Make Each Second Last isn’t so much a departure for us, but a stretching of boundaries, and a fuller embrace of what makes us unique as a band, including some of the instrumental and vocal versatility brought in by new band members Grace van’t Hof and Marshall WilbornMark Stoffel’s instrumental presence and creativity, always important to the Night Drivers’ sound, is also given an even bigger spotlight than on past releases,” says Jones. “This is our first record in which I’ve written or co-written all of the songs. The majority of the songs were solo writing efforts, or co-written within the band. I also wrote two with Thomm Jutz, which was really rewarding, and I’m also very glad to maintain my long co-writing relationship with former band mate Jon Weisberger, who co-wrote two of the songs.” 


“The phrase ‘make each second last’ from the opening track ‘We Needed This Ride’ is all about savoring and being grateful for experiences,” Jones continues, “especially those involving human contact, now that we know how much of that we had been taking for granted.”




The Walking Cowboy: David Stewart

The Walking Cowboy: David Stewart

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Notable Songwriter David Stewart — the “Walking Cowboy” — Joins Turnberry Records

October 5, 2021–Rancho Mirage, Calif.–Turnberry Records and Management is pleased to announce that top bluegrass and country songwriter David Stewart has joined the Turnberry Records family of artists. He has signed on for a one-record deal with the nationwide label devoted to bluegrass, country, and Americana.

Stewart earned the moniker “Walking Cowboy” en route from his Wyoming home to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, where he was asked to perform to acknowledge his talent and love for the historic music venue. It was a labor of love, a 1600-mile trek by foot, and kicked Stewart into the media spotlight in 1988. Just after, his “Heart and Sole” sold over 44-thousand copies, and his creative meanderings have yet to slow down.

Known for his 15 years of weekly appearances at — and deep involvement with — the historic Occidental Hotel venue in Buffalo, Wyoming, Stewart has written many chart-topping hits, including cuts recorded by artists such as Tanya Tucker and Eddie Raven. His currently popular acts including Lonesome River Band, Carolina Blue, and Lorraine Jordan, whose Stewart-penned “Bill Monroe’s Ol’ Mandolin” saw significant success over the past year.

Stewart signed on to a one-record deal with Turnberry. The first song from the 10-track release is titled “Still Got Some Cowboy in Me.” 

“All songs on the CD are either written or co-written by myself,” Stewart said. “It’s versatile. It’s a little country, a little grass…some of the songs on the record had already been released by major artists, but I wanted to do my renditions of them.”

The record was created with notable producer Greg Cole, who Stewart calls “a master.” It was recorded at Slawdawg Productions in Smyrna, Tenn.

After hearing the forthcoming recording in its entirety, Stewart said he was delighted. 

“I’m really pleased with it; it all turned out really good. We got it RIGHT.”

About signing with Turnberry for his third full album and the first on the Turnberry label, Stewart said, “I’m very appreciative of it and excited that they wanted to do that. They’ve got artists charting, and I’m happy to be a part of the team.”

Turnberry Records is a division of The Bluegrass Standard magazine. For more information, visit thebluegrassstandard.com. 




Songs of a Simple Life: Merle Monroe

Songs of a Simple Life

 

 

Since the release of their latest critically acclaimed project Songs of a Simple LifeMerle Monroe has continued to charge forward with their one-of-a-kind Merle Haggard / Bill Monroe inspired sound. They’re excited to unveil the newest single from the record, “Harlan Darlin’” – out at radio now. The upbeat track is available along with the full album for download and streaming .

Written by Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes, “Harlan Darlin’” tells a love story with a prison twist. The track centers around Merle Monroe lead vocalist Tim Raybon’s powerhouse vocals, accompanied by world-renowned banjo extraordinaire and band co-founder Daniel Grindstaff. The song does what the group has quickly become known for, which is telling a story that instantly draws listeners in. It’s that traditional approach, paired with a lifetime of experience that has quickly propelled the group into one of the fastest rising bands in all of Bluegrass, even receiving a nomination this year for “New Artist of the Year” by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).

“Harlan Darlin’ was Bobby’s idea and we wrote it one afternoon at his house,” says songwriter Tim Stafford. “He sent it right away to Tim and Daniel and they held it that evening! I love their arrangement of the song with multiple fiddles – fits Harlan Darlin’ to a tee.” Bobby Starnes also noted how they wrote it on a Tuesday and the band cut it on a Wednesday.

The band’s innovative release strategy for Songs of a Simple Life has helped stretch out the project’s longevity. Despite just being released in June of 2021, the album has already produced FOUR No. 1 hits on the Bluegrass charts. Other singles hitting the top spot include “God’s Still In Control,” “Hello Sunshine,” “I’m Leaving Town Tonight,” and most recent hit “Goodbye Marie.” Tim Raybon took his writing to new levels, penning an impressive seven cuts from the sophomore record.




Small Town Dreamer

Small Town Dreamer

Two-time Songwriter of the Year recipient Daryl Mosley releases SMALL TOWN DREAMER November 5 on Pinecastle Records. The collection includes 12 new tracks, all spotlighting the Waverly, Tennessee native’s small town roots and humble upbringing. The record was co-produced by Mosley and The Grascals’ Danny Roberts.  

The first taste of SMALL TOWN DREAMER came via the lead single “Transistor Radio.” Written by Mosley and critically-acclaimed hitmaker Rick Lang, the recording pays homage to the good ole’ days and simpler times. The song gives a shout-out to the Grand Ole Opry, Elvis, Bill Monroe, Aretha Franklin, Motown and other music heroes. Rising Bluegrass star Jaelee Roberts handles the harmony vocals.  

Mosley penned all 12 of the album’s tracks, co-writing three songs with Lang and one with Roberts. One of the disc’s standouts is “The Waverly Train Disaster,” which recalls a 1978 tank car explosion that killed 16 people and caused over $1.8 million in damage. “Here’s To The Dreamers” is the key inspiration for the album’s title and its empowering lyrics offer an optimistic approach for tough times. In addition to straight-forward forays into Bluegrass and Country (“Hillbilly Dust,” “The Way I Was Raised”), the project also features two well-crafted Gospel tunes: “He’s With Me” and “Mama’s Bible.” The theme from start to finish centers around Daryl’s one-of-a-kind storytelling and his chameleon-like ability to segue gently through multiple genres.

ABOUT Daryl Mosley:

Award-winning singer/songwriter Daryl Mosley has applied his warm-as-country-sunshine voice and thoughtful lyrics to a wealth of memorable material for more than three decades. Throughout the ’90s, he toured as lead vocalist/bass player with much-celebrated Bluegrass group The New Tradition then, in 2001, he joined the legendary Osborne Brothers. In 2010, Mosley formed The Farm Hands, which quickly became one of the most awarded bands in Bluegrass. In 2020, Daryl stepped into the solo spotlight with THE SECRET OF LIFE. The album spent multiple weeks at #1 on the Roots Music Report Contemporary Album Chart, and the lead single (“A Few Years Ago”) spent six weeks in the top spot on the Contemporary Song Chart. Mosley has written six #1 songs, been honored as Songwriter of the Year twice and earned three Song of the Year awards (SPBGMA). Lynn Anderson, Bobby Osborne, Josh Williams, the Booth Brothers and Carolina Blue are among the many artists who have recorded Mosley’s songs. He resides in Waverly, Tennessee.




What Matters Most to Balsam Range is Still a Song

What Matters Most to Balsam Range is Still a Song

Even with all the awards and the #1 hits throughout more than a decade of steady success, for two-time International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainer of the Year Balsam Range what matters most is still a song, a message, a distinctive sound and a compelling performance. And though the western North Carolina quintet is known as a bluegrass band par excellence, they’ve always escaped easy categorization; just when you think you’ve got them pegged, they’ll surprise you once again. Such is the case with Moxie and Mettle, their new album  from Mountain Home Music Company

The album includes the band’s four most recent singles, each of which topped the bluegrass charts, and a new focus track for radio, rounded out by a collection of songs that reveal a group at the height of its powers — and one intent on speaking to the broad range of human experience.  


“Highway Side,” the new emphasis track, underlines the point in typical Balsam Range fashion, marrying a Rashomon-like glimpse of a driver passing a hitchhiker to a propulsive bluegrass beat that delivers the song’s empathetic message — “I wonder how did he get there…Something tells me he and I are the same” —through strong harmonies, deft picking and an irresistible sing-along chorus.  

In “Richest Man,” the same observation of shared humanity is revealed through a contrast between material wealth and other kinds of abundance. The group’s first single since their chart-topping Aeonic album, it asserts what we all have in common, especially at a moment when our universal humanity has never been more apparent. “Rivers, Rains and Runaway Trains,” on the other hand, offers a more narrowly drawn portrait from the pen of IBMA Songwriter of the Year, Milan Miller, and frequent co-writer Beth Husband; its depiction of a man long habituated to careful planning who finds his world turned upside down by a whirlwind romance is at once powerful and intimate. Similarly, “Santa Barbara,” another #1, places the spotlight on a lone individual — here a man who’s too self-aware to deny the gap between the life he lives and the one he wants, or to deny his own responsibility for the difference.  

Standing at the center of the project is the fourth advance single to go to #1, and the source of the album’s title. An emotional meditation on meeting hard times with perseverance and spiritual courage — “one part moxie [and] another part mettle”— “Grit and Grace” is a continuation of the tradition of reflecting genuine trials and the qualities it takes to overcome them, a heartfelt response to life’s struggles that gains its strength from the sense of community and values shared by both the band and their fans.

Keith Barnacastle
The Bluegrass Standard Magazine
Turnberry Records and Management
12168 Turnberry Dr
Rancho Mirage, Ca. 92270
760-883-8160




Bluegrass Powerhouse Sideline’s Album, Ups, Downs and No Name Towns Reaches New Heights

Bluegrass Powerhouse Sideline’s Album, Ups, Downs and No Name Towns Reaches New Heights

Bluegrass powerhouse Sideline’s newest full length album, Ups, Downs and No Name Towns, finds the celebrated sextet — recipients of 2019’s International Bluegrass Music Association Song Of the Year award for their hit song, “Thunder Dan” and a group known for their distinctively stylish and explosive bluegrass that has netted them chart-topping singles and well-received albums — reaching new heights with a set that includes the kind of hard-hitting arrangements of classics that brought them acclaim in the first place, yet focuses on new material, chosen and delivered by a band with a perfect sense of who they are and what they have to say.

The album’s title, drawn from “Old Guitar Case,” not only describes the band’s journey, but also acknowledges the recent struggle of the music industry — and especially its professional touring musicians — to cope with a months-long, pandemic-driven shutdown.  Through the song’s depiction of the details of a road musician’s life, it reveals profound truths about journeys of hardship and triumphs, victories and defeats — all undertaken with the aim of reaching new heights as the music and the community it builds continue to grow.

“In the musical slump caused by the shutdowns of 2020, Sideline decided to pull together and start on a new project. We had time, we had each other, and we decided to put it all to work in a way we had never done before,” says Skip Cherryholmes. “The inspiration and variety that make up this project really relate directly to the ‘Ups and Downs’ we were dealing with in real time. Working together to find ways to survive and remain relevant, while receiving dozens of calls day after day for canceled work — this became a whole new full-time, emotionally exhausting job. I truly feel that all of these experiences played the biggest part in the development of the music for this project. It affected every bit of attention and care to capture each performance exactly how we felt it, all the way down to the cover concept. In so many ways this tattered old guitar case represents the beating our band and career took through the pandemic. The fact that it still stands symbolizes our resilience and ability to persevere. Ups, Downs, and No Name Towns is by far the most musically developed project we’ve recorded to date, but it is also the most connected and inspired effort we’ve ever experienced, personally or musically.”

Keith Barnacastle
The Bluegrass Standard Magazine
Turnberry Records and Management
12168 Turnberry Dr
Rancho Mirage, Ca. 92270
760-883-8160




“Slowly Getting out of Your Way”: Full Album Slated for Release in Early 2022

“Slowly Getting out of Your Way”: Full Album Slated for Release in Early 2022

Pinecastle Records is excited to announce the addition of critically-acclaimed Bluegrass group Nick Chandler and Delivered to its roster. To celebrate the newly inked deal, the North Carolina based band just released their brand new single, “Slowly Getting You Out Of The Way,” which is available for download and streaming today.

“I am so excited about the new partnership with Pinecastle Records. To share a label with the biggest names in Bluegrass is such an honor,” says Nick Chandler. “I am really looking forward to working with Lonnie Lassiter, Ethan Burkhardt and the whole Pinecastle team. Pinecastle Records is a great fit for Nick Chandler and Delivered.”

“Slowly Getting You Out Of The Way” is a hard-driving tune that stays true to the group’s signature sound which has catapulted them over the years. The lyrics focus on heartbreak and most importantly, moving on. The song was written by the late Randall Hylton, who has penned songs for Bluegrass legends like Ralph Stanley, Doyle Lawson and the Lewis Family. The breakup anthem has become a Bluegrass staple over the years, being covered by multiple artists.

“We’re very excited to help grow the momentum that Nick Chandler and Delivered have created,” says Pinecastle Records CEO Ethan Burkhardt. “They will be a perfect fit on our Pinecastle roster, and we’re all very excited to get their music out there, and help build their brand! The upcoming music they’re working on is something that stays true to their sound and we really believe people will love.”

Stay tuned for more information about Nick Chandler and Delivered’s upcoming project, set for release in early 2022. 

Keith Barnacastle
The Bluegrass Standard Magazine
Turnberry Records and Management
12168 Turnberry Dr
Rancho Mirage, Ca. 92270
760-883-8160




Renaissance Crosses Multiple Genres While Staying True to the Valerie Smith Sound

Renaissance Crosses Multiple Genres While Staying True to the Valerie Smith Sound

Renaissance crosses through multiple musical genres while still staying true to the Valerie Smith sound that encompasses an acoustic flair with a touch of bluegrass and all with exceptional musicianship. The album was meticulously crafted and features her long-time band Liberty Pike and esteemed guests, including Andy Leftwich, Rob Ickes, Donna Ulisse, Jerry Salley. There’s even a stirring number featuring Gospel greats, The McCrary Sisters.  The advanced single “I Found” debuted at #5 on the Roots Music Report chart, #7 on the Bluegrass Today Grassicana chart, and #8 on the FAI Folk DJ Chart for June 2021.

The album is called Renaissance because in looking at the world and herself, Smith has been reborn. With themes including self-worth and acceptance and songs about love, finding love, acceptance, and regret, the project signifies the journey Smith has made in her life with optimism to which others can relate. The album includes upbeat, happy songs that encourage the listener to move to the groove and lush ballads with meaningful lyrics and melodies that grab the soul. Two songs were written by Smith, and the remaining selections were carefully chosen from the works of other seasoned writers to best express what she wanted to say.

Originally from Missouri and now based in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, Valerie Smith is an American roots artist and songwriter with a unique style and sound. She has rocked the bluegrass world for almost two decades with a string of national and international tours, critically acclaimed recordings, Grammy, IBMA, and Dove Award nominations. When you listen to Smith’s unique and expressive voice, you can hear influences from bluegrass, blues, gospel music, and even Broadway show tunes. Her range is expansive, and she conveys a fantastic array of emotions.

Smith has been touring and recording with her band Liberty Pike for 30 years, and she has 18 albums to her credit. She has appeared on various television shows, including Ronnie Reno’s, the Bluegrass Underground, Song of the Mountains, PBS, and more. Smith’s hit single, “Red Clay Halo” (Gillian Welch and David Rawlings), climbed the Bluegrass Unlimited, Country Music, and Americana reporting charts, receiving heavy radio airplay for five years. BU included the song in their list of the top 60 songs of the decade. Her 2020 single “From A Distance” (Julie Gold), featuring Claire Lynch and Irene Kelly, hit #1 in July of 2020 and spent an entire year on the Bluegrass Today Grassicana Chart as well as hitting # 2 for 2 months on the Folk Alliance International Folk DJ Chart.

In addition to producing Renaissance during the pandemic, Smith has also written and recorded Maggie’s Journal,  a Bluegrass-Folk opera based on her great-grandmother’s diary (release to be announced). In addition to many upcoming tour dates, Valerie continues to create music released by Bell Buckle Records. Bell Buckle Records, Media, and Radio houses various talented artists, radio shows and creates video productions.

Keith Barnacastle
The Bluegrass Standard Magazine
Turnberry Records and Management
12168 Turnberry
Dr Rancho Mirage, Ca. 92270
760-883-8160




Fast rising singer and songwriter Jaelee Roberts releases video of her latest single, “Think Again.”

Fast rising singer and songwriter Jaelee Roberts releases video of her latest single, “Think Again.”

The song, penned by a couple of veteran Music Row hitmakers, Marla Cannon-Goodman and Shane Stockton, is a well-crafted excursion into the country side of bluegrass that suggests once again that Roberts has a rare degree of interpretive conviction and depth for a singer just emerging from her teens.

Produced by Balsam Range’s award-winning bassist, Tim Surrett, the ballad features a top-shelf group of musicians—IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year Alan Bibey, Steve Martin Prize-winning banjo player Kristin Scott Benson, veteran country and bluegrass fiddler Jimmy Mattingly and guitarist Tony Wray, plus Surrett himself — who provide subtle, sympathetic backing. Still, it’s Roberts herself whose emotionally complex performance stands front and center, as she reels off a series of warnings to a newly minted ex, starting with the song’s devastating opening lines: “If you’re thinkin’ that the lights that you’re seein’ down the road comin’ ’round the bend / Belong to me, better think again”

“I heard ‘Think Again’ for the first time a couple of years ago and I knew immediately that I had to record it! I love how the songwriters (Marla Cannon-Goodman and Shane Stockton) told such a vivid story… songs that you can ‘see’ and ‘feel’ are my favorite!” Roberts told The Bluegrass Situation. “I had so much fun during the filming (I really loved driving the convertible and the drone was awesome) and I am SO excited to be able to bring this song to life in my very first music video. There are a couple of lines in the lyrics where the video and the song really connected: ‘If you’re standin’ at the screen door, heart laid open out in your hand’ and ‘I’m gonna find a spot to pull off on the shoulder’ — watch for those scenes in the video. I’m just really thankful I got to record ‘Think Again’ and I sure hope everyone enjoys the video for it!”

Keith Barnacastle
The Bluegrass Standard Magazine
Turnberry Records and Management
12168 Turnberry Dr
Rancho Mirage, Ca. 92270
760-883-8160