DALE ANN BRADLEY, “Dale Ann Bradley”: There is no better singer in bluegrass today — male or female — than Dale Ann Bradley.
The eastern Kentucky native has already won five best female singer trophies from the International Bluegrass Music Association. And she’ll likely win that many or more in the future. Her voice is as pure as a mountain stream.
Bradley hit the bluegrass circuit in 1991 as a member of the New Coon Creek Girls. And she’s still going strong 26 years later.
Her new self-titled album is one of the year’s best. “Southern Memories,” the first single, is about a woman who left home at 17, riding a coal car on train, and is now finding that her memories are calling her home.
“Champagne Lady” is a story song about a Louisiana girl whose father left her nothing but a pair of crooked dice.
There’s a pair of gospel songs — “One More River” and the a capella “Stand By Me.” Vince Gill joins Bradley for a duet on “I’ll Just Go Away,” an old Stanley Brothers song.
“Going Back To Kentucky” celebrates her Kentucky roots. “If You Were Mine To Lose” finds the singer wishing a male friend would see her as a over. “Blackberry Summer” is filled with nostalgia for childhood. “This Is My Year For Mexico” is a bluegrass version of the 1975 country hit for Crystal Gayle. “Now and Then (Dreams Do Come True)” finds a woman following her father’s footsteps as a musician.
DOYLE LAWSON &QUICKSILVER, “Life Is A Story”: Doyle Lawson has been a professional bluegrass musician for 54 years, since he joined Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys in February 1963. He’s fronted his own band, Quicksilver, for 38 years. And he’s closing in on 40 albums to date.
The new album, “Life Is A Story,” like much of Lawson and Quicksilver’s work, rides the range between traditional country and traditional bluegrass — back to the days before the labels became so rigid.
There’s “Love Lives Again,” a 1973 hit for George Jones, and “Little Girl,” a hit for John Michael Montgomery in 2000. And to broaden the mix even more, there”s “What Am I Living For,” a 1958 R&B hit for Chuck “King of the Stroll” Willis. “Kids These Days” is filled with nostalgia for more innocent times. But the things it describes as 20 years ago were really more like 50 years ago.
Time, however, does fly.
“Guitar Case” is a good ballad about a man who packs his guitar case with clothes and sneaks away from the woman he no longer loves. But he finds a note inside it that says she understands. And he starts his journey back home. “Cry Across Kansas” find a man regretting the way he treated a woman after she kicks him out.
Another strong album by an act that’s been making them for nearly four decades.
— Keith Lawrence, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer