In this fourth all original recording by the award winning roots music group Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising they've thrown all the "rules" out the window and simply done what they do best - take the stories of the world and tell them in a way that allows for a multitude of meanings - depending of the perspective and the experience of the listener.
Although this is a look at the darker side of life, it's done with great spirit and a sense of fun. You'll find wonderful surprises, like the appearance of a resophonic mandolin on a couple of numbers. Dennis Nelson plays a soulful harmonica that's probably "no part of nothing" in many bluegrass circles - but a climb to the gallows just wouldn't be the same without it! And really. . . . . . is that a rattlesnake making a guest appearance at the end of one of the songs????
Everything about the recording was fun, from the songwriting to the recording process - even the photo shoot (which is not generaly the bands favorite part of the proceedings) turned out to be a wonderfully fun day of playing with guns, whiskey bottles and poker hands at the historic MacLeay Inn outside Salem, Oregon.
The feedback from live performances of these new songs has been powerful and amazing. There is something about this music that seems to allow people to express something they have held deep inside for a long time - perhaps too long of a time.
So take a listen, throw your head back and let it out. That's exactly the response that good music should bring out in you. A primal release of emotion that leaves you feeling that somone out there really "gets" you - and understands exactly how you feel - and somehow figured out how to put it into a song.
Laugh, cry, howl and the moon. Tap your toes. Watch out for speeding tickets if listening while driving (ahem. . . . personal band member experience here). Lowground is for you. A gift of appreciation and gratitude for your years of encouragement and support.
Now let's all go get into some mischief together!
CD Title - LOWGROUND
Artist - Kathy Boyd and Phoenix Rising
Label - Ground Zero
Release Date - October 2012
Bluegrass fans from the Pacific Northwest are certainly familiar with Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising. This group of musicians, writers and singers has carved a solid place for themselves in the misty pines of that area of the world, and with good reason. The latest release from these folks has several things to recommend it.
As a songwriter, one of the first things I look for is who wrote the songs on the recording. I am always gratified to see a band that happily performs and records their own material. Although the opening cut, "Billy in the Lowground", is a well traveled traditional piece, it does however set the tone for what is to come, and actually has some original lyrics penned by multi-instrumentalist band member Tim Crosby. Every other song on this CD was written by one band member or another, and that's a good sign for me. It allows a musical group to put their own stamp on everything they do. Another thing I listen for is how the recording makes me feel, or what images it evokes. "Lowground" is a no apologies approach to roots oriented bluegrass. It is obvious that each member of the group has a genuine love for, and true understanding of, the music they create. That feeling comes through. Listening to this CD simply makes me smile and takes me back to a time when things were perhaps a bit simpler and less complicated.
As I heard each successive track, I almost got the feeling that these songs had been around for a long time. It is not the easiest thing to write material that has an aged feel to it, but Kathy Boyd and her band mates make it happen. This is music that would be at home around a camp fire, or on a front porch, or a festival stage for that matter. It harkens back to a point where a lot of bluegrass came from... the hills and hollers. The songs go from happy to thoughtful to funny to just plain "Let's pick!" music.
Kathy Boyd and Phoenix Rising call what they do "original roots bluegrass", and by golly I think they nailed it. Fans of mountain style roots music will appreciate having this CD in their collection.
I pulled a very dangerous stunt on the community radio station (KMUZ) that I work at. Kathy Boyd handed me a copy of her latest CD a couple of weeks ago at a bluegrass festival for airplay and I hadn't listened to it until this morning on the air. I've known Kathy and the band for years and knew that they were good song-crafters and yet I know it's dangerous turf to air things until you've heard them. So looking over the song titles and liner notes I spotted Rattlesnake in the Woodpile and after reading the liner notes, I thought, "Well that looks interesting" and played it as my first cut from this album. Not only was it an excellent song but immediately got a lot of favorable response from listeners. So thinking I'm on solid ground by doing this blindly, I played another cut, again, I hadn't listened to it in advance. Another song penned by Tim Crosby, fiddler-mandolin & vocalist for the band, called To the Begging... Wow! What a great song about people we all know in our hometowns that stand on corners with cardboard signs looking for work, money or food.. It's a strong song we all can relate to.
As soon as I got off the air and came to work in my repair shop, I was able to listen to the entire CD. My pick for the strongest song on the album is Rattlesnake in the Woodpile, but so the freshly written lyrics to an old fiddle tune Billy In The Lowground, Shaniko, Ways & Means, Bottom of the Jar and To The Begging.. I think this is the bands best work to date. I highly recommend it.
KMUZ 88.5 FM Salem, OR