REVIEW: Soulgrass featuring Billy Lathum “Nobody Knows”


Soulgrass featuring Billy Ray Lathum – Nobody Knows

Bluegrass Hall of Fame inductee & banjo player the late Billy Ray Lathum (Kentucky Colonels/the Dillards) appears on this CD which features his last recordings with Soulgrass. This album celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Billy joining Soulgrass. These songs memorialize his involvement & contributions to the bluegrass genre.

Produced by Soulgrass the 14-track Nobody Knows (Drops March 20–Palette Records) includes (7 never-released cuts from 2003 & 7 dialogues) with Billy Ray (banjo/background vocals) joined by Debra Lyn (lead vocals/bass) who also has her own solo LPs. David Gilbert Foster (acoustic guitar/background vocals) & featuring Brad Davis (acoustic rhythm/lead guitar/mandolin), Robert Bowlin (fiddle) & Tom Roady (percussion). There are charming live radio excerpts with Dave Higgs (Bluegrass Breakdown) recorded in 2002.

You don’t have to be a lover of bluegrass music to enjoy this spirited music. The songs are highly polished with vocal enthusiasm & lots of melodies. Fans of Alison Krauss will find Debra Lynn’s vocalizing equally energetic, expressive & luxuriant. I love her work.

“Across the Great Divide,” is excellently rendered classically & delicately by Debra’s vocals. The majesty of bluegrass is vividly demonstrated instrumentally. “Wait a Minute,” is the jewel of the CD — a stunningly beautiful pop-oriented bluegrass tune. It’s infectious to any ear within listening distance. I’m from New York & music this good is hard to ignore.

Like ragtime music, bluegrass had a special attraction that flirted with melody & words. My first introduction to bluegrass wasn’t even by a bluegrass artist. It was a bluegrass song written by the father of the genre – Bill Monroe. The song? It was Elvis Presley’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” & after I heard that I had to dive into the deeper end of the pool to find what Elvis had originally heard. Elvis was right. It’s great music.

The humorous recollections between tracks personalize the music & it goes from being entertainment to being something deservedly documented. The old Jackie Wilson soul song “Higher & Higher,” is interpreted via bluegrass by the dynamic vocal of Debra Lyn. The musicians are concise with fuel-injected backup vocals.

Jazz drummer Buddy Rich sadly said on a TV talk show that country music didn’t take much talent. It was hillbilly corny embarrassing music that couldn’t compete with jazz. Obviously, Rich never heard music like this, played like this, & never seen the likes of Chet Atkins, Glen Campbell, Roy Clark, Clarence White, or Billy Ray Lathum play. Music compiled like this proves the music has its place in the history of the American songbook.

Highlights – “Dooley,” “Nobody Knows,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Wait a Minute,” “Higher & Higher,” “If I Never Wake Up Again/Twist the Knife” & “You’re Gonna Leave.”

“You have to hold on to the grass to lean against the ground.” I have to remember that.
The music was recorded at Mountainside Audio labs, Nashville, TN & restored in Dolby Atmos (surround sound application). Music samples/CD @ Bandcamp  +

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