If it’s true that it’s been almost three years since the last album debut by ‘Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road’, then their fans and Bluegrass fans in general will be thrilled to see and hear the new album, ‘A Little Bit of Bluegrass’, released by Pinecastle Records. The Lady of Tradition, Lorraine Jordan, is a staunch supporter of ‘Traditional Bluegrass’, and rightfully so in a day and age when so much divergence seems to be the order of the day. Inclusion of more electronics, or more Americana folk music, and pulling back old Country & Rock artists into Bluegrass recordings, almost everywhere you look. As Lorraine says, “The world is so different than what it was three years ago.”
Rest assured, that this new project has a solid and sound foundation in real Bluegrass. Yet, there are some subtle variations in some of the tunes, and Carolina Road was joined by some other, highly acclaimed musicians, inclusion of more instruments, and more songwriters in producing the final results of the project. Out of the 10 songs on the album, at least 6 are new, original songs, by my count. A number of the tunes have a story to tell, in addition to the music.
The musicians who primarily contributed to the recordings include: Allen Dyer – Rhythm & Lead vocals, Ben Greene – Banjo & Baritone vocals, Kevin Lamm – Bass, Lead & Baritone vocals, Matt Hooper – Fiddle, Wayne Morris – Guitar & vocals, Lorraine Jordan – Mandolin, Lead & Tenor vocals. There are some additional guest musicians. (see Liner notes)
Since the release of the album, Hooper has stepped back to take some time off the road. Warren Blair, another seasoned and talented musicisian has joined the band.
As far as the tracks, the Title track, ‘A Little Bit of Bluegrass’ (David Stewart) hits the mark precisely as the intent and theme of the project. Not only does it have ‘the sound of a hit’, it just may very well be an enduring classic. ‘Homesick For the Blueridge’ (Tim Massey) is a lively, strong banjo & fiddle tune, that should easily transport you down home. ‘Hickory Wind’ (Bob Buchanan/Gram Parsons) is a Bluegrass Ballad with excellent instrumentals and warm harmony. ‘Just An Old Penny’ (David Stewart/Brink Brinkman) has some hot pickin’ and terrific lyrics! As someone who has always had an appreciation for clever word usage & the ability to turn a pun, I reckon this one is ‘my favorite’. ‘Heartbreak Mountain’ (Buck Owens), is a movin’ Bluegrass tune, but with a mournful message. This rendition has excellent banjo, fiddle, and harmony. ‘Molly Rose’ (Lynwood Lunsford) has a very traditional Bluegrass sound, with excellent instrumentation, and the more I listen to the Band, the more I appreciate their harmonies…
‘Mama’s Cross’ (Lorraine Jordan/Donna Ulisse) may very well be the ‘sleeper single’ of the entire project! Simply put, I can’t believe that someone has not previously promoted or talked about this beautiful, original, Bluegrass Gospel tune. Above the others, this is the one I want to hear over and over. In one word, Wonderful! ‘Melinda’ (Lorraine Jordan) is a happy, pleasant tune, that shows me what Lorraine was talking about, when she used the term ‘somewhat relaxed’. It is a vintage ‘Carolina Road’ trademark standard, geared down, just a click. ‘Who’s Gonna Tell The Story’ (David Stewart/Brink Brinkman) is a tribute to Tom T. Hall, the Legendary songwriter. It feels like more of a tribute to all the old storytellers and songwriters. ‘Carolina Pig Pickin’ Time’ (Larry Nixon) is a fun tune, that celebrates the traditions of Pig Pickin’ cookouts in Carolina. An excellent way to wrap up the album!
In short, ‘A Little Bit of Bluegrass’ accomplishes what this writer believes it set out to do. I believe, ‘Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road’ intended to celebrate their years of adhering to Traditional Bluegrass, and show that they could be flexible enough to bring their exceptional music into all that is Bluegrass in 2023. The result is an outstanding, creative musical journey, that should appeal to many listeners.
You can reach ‘Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road’ on facebook at facebook.com/carolinaroadband. And on their website www.carolinaroadband.com .