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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

7063 reviews in the archive.

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn: Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn

Submitted by Ed Banjer (see all reviews from this person) on 6/3/2021

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

The very first song is Railroad. Right then you will know this album is something special. There is not a stinker on it. Both Bela and his wife Abigail can play circles around most of us mortals and Abigail's vocals are none other than spectacular. Put them together and we have fireworks. Highly recommended for anyone who loves Old Time and just good ol' foot stompin' music.

Overall Rating: 10

Bad Livers: Delusions of Banjer

Submitted by Ed Banjer (see all reviews from this person) on 6/3/2021

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

I believe this was one of the first albums put together by Bad Livers' frontman and songwriter, Danny Barnes. Danny Barnes is from Temple, TX originally but has more recently made his way to the Pacific Northwest. This album is a down and dirty good time. With Barnes' banjo accompanied by tuba and sometimes upright bass, he makes rock n roll out of instruments that weren't made for rock n roll... while still retaining that Old Time flavor. I have seen Barnes play solo in concert several times that he has rolled back through Austin and I shit you not, I've seen him alternate between bluegrass and clawhammer styles in the same song. I know his secret for pulling this off but I'll let you make it to one of his shows and find out for yourself. Go find this album and you will be hooked on this band for life.

Overall Rating: 10

Split Lip Rayfield: On My Way

Submitted by Ed Banjer (see all reviews from this person) on 6/3/2021

Where Purchased: Split Lip Rayfield website

Overall Comments

I can't say enough good things about this band and their most recent album, On My Way. Currently a 3-piece band that includes banjo, mandolin, and upright one-string gas tank bass, this band absolutely rocks the grunge-grass. On this record, mandolin player Wayne Gottstein and banjo picker Eric Mardis both put in time playing acoustic guitars as well. For being such a small outfit, they make big sound. Run don't walk to your nearest music seller and get this album, you will not be disappointed. Then get Never Make it Home, their second studio album. After that, you will have a ball finding every record in-between. If I was forced to describe their work with one word, I'd say it's FUN. Don't get me wrong, sometimes the content of their songs can be dark, but in a fun way. Do it!

Overall Rating: 10

Sturgill Simpson: Cuttin' Grass, vol 1 & 2

Submitted by Ed Banjer (see all reviews from this person) on 6/3/2021

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

What can I say, Sturgill Simpson keeps reinventing himself and I can't get enough. His first two albums were country-fried to say the least. Then he went kind of R&Bish and then rock n roll after that. His most recent recordings, however, are these two volumes aptly titled Cuttin' Grass. A lot of these songs are bluegrass versions of original songs he has already recorded with a few new gems thrown in for good measure. You can find Sturgill's complete albums on his official youtube page if you want to try before you buy. Of course buying means you won't have to skip through ads after every other song. Do it!

Overall Rating: 10

Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway

Submitted by Ed Banjer (see all reviews from this person) on 6/3/2021

Where Purchased: Waterloo Records

Overall Comments

I can't say enough good things about Rhiannon Giddens or this album. I have posted reviews of some of my favorite albums that include banjo but these are true Old Time songs written in the modern era with historical subject-matter. Rhiannon Giddens can write a song and her majestic banjo pickin' is way better than I could ever aspire to play. This is a concept album, not a collection of radio singles. Keep that in mind and you will hear a tale of love and heartache that takes place during one of America's darkest hours. Check it out and you will not be disappointed.

Overall Rating: 10

Brian Godchaux and Sandy Rothman: The Red Fiddle and the Silver Banjo

Submitted by Bill Rogers (see all reviews from this person) on 4/7/2019

Where Purchased: From Weebly sales website

Overall Comments

ToneBar Records, 2015. Available at https://redfiddlesilverbanjo.weebly.com/the-musicians.html

A CD I was woefully slow to pick up—and one that I’m listening to a lot.  This is fiddle and banjo music as it is meant to be heard—live recordings with no edits or overdubs. The tunes are traditional, with the exception of “Red Fiddle Blues,” a standard blues by the players.  There are 13 tunes, ranging from the Appalachians to Ireland to Canada to Texas, and more than 65 minutes of music.  The shortest tune is 3:14.  The longest, 6:31.

Godchaux and Rothman have played together (and apart) for decades.  Both are superb players.  Their fiddle and banjo collaboration goes back to the 1990s, and has reached a level of comfort that comes through here.  Though Sandy is a veteran bluegrass player, the music here has a distinctly laid-back, old-time ambiance. For banjo players, listening to Sandy’s playing behind Brian’s fiddle is a lesson in how to support a fiddler completely and interestingly, but without stealing the show.  Anyone wishing lo find ideas for playing fiddle backup on the banjo has plenty of opportunity here.  The players roam through variations and improvisations, neither repeating the basic melody time after time nor straying so far that it’s unrecognizable.  Every tune is listenable.

If you want to get an idea of what Brian and Sandy sound like, a few of their tunes can be found on YouTube with a simple search.  If you haven’t already discovered this CD, I highly recommend it.  It’s a gem, and will give hours of enjoyment—or study, as you may choose.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Mean Mary: Blazing

Submitted by neilends (see all reviews from this person) on 10/31/2018

Where Purchased: Apple Music

Overall Comments

Surprised that no one has used BHO’S review feature for Mean Mary, so let me be the first. “Mean Mary from Alabam“ calls herself that only because she named herself that as a munchkin when she was 5 or 6. Speaking of age 6, thats how old she was when she sang her first broadcasted country song:

Mean Mary at age 6

Her latest album is Blazing (2017). While I don’t know her motivation for that title, it’s a damn good one when you listen to the title track, a banjo-guitar instrumental with her brother Frank:

Blazing

Pegging Mean Mary to a genre is a creative exercise. Her banjo-rocking vocal talents have confused the editors of Apple Music so thoroughly that her many albums on that platform have been assigned to the following categories: Rock, Country, Contemporary Folk, Alternative Folk, Singer/Songwriter, and Pop. That said, her website openly declares a dislike of “the commercial country-music scene.”

As for the Blazing album, the title track is one of two instrumentals. The other is “Lights, Guns, Action” which also features some blazing banjo and guitar playing. Her banjo skills come alive alongside her vocals in “Sugar Creek Mountain Rush.” You won’t hear any in the more pop-sounding “I Face Somewhere,” but I’ve still replayed it a million times in my car. 

If I haven’t persuaded you yet of her banjo skills, here’s her Cripple Creek:

Cripple Creek

Overall Rating: 8

The Goddamn Gallows: 7 Devils

Submitted by bulletbear8 (see all reviews from this person) on 9/12/2018

Where Purchased: Itunes

Overall Comments

Ya know in my opinion it's a very well rounded album. By that I mean it incorporates alot of different elements so it can appeal to everyone. For instance it starts with a song called Ragz N Bonez, with has alot of metal/hard rock sounds in it and a creepier darker tone. Than later you get into Broken Man which sounds a lot more Bluesy. Of course having Jayke Orvis in the band they had to do a .357 String Band song (Raise the Moon). That song added the fast mandolin, punk-grass kinda side to the album. 7 devils and y'all motherfuckers need jesus I think is the distinctive two on the album that really shows what the band's style is all about. Ya know that Hellbilly/psychobilly/alt-country sound. They even through out an amazing tribute to Townes Van Zandt which I loved. Over all I love all the songs on the record. It all sounds really well written and professionally done. These guys are full of talent. I would highly suggest looking up the Goddamn Gallows, and this album. Which in my opinion is their best.

Overall Rating: 10

Alan Munde: Banjo Sandwich

Submitted by jhko (see all reviews from this person) on 3/5/2017

Where Purchased: you tube

Overall Comments

Wow. What can I say? Another reviewer said this album is as fresh as 30 years ago (40 actually), and is a masterpiece. I couldn't agree more. If you have never listened to this, do so immediately. Amazing playing, just incredibly beautiful in tone, phrasing, everything. Wow. Reminds me why Alan is a legend. 

Overall Rating: 10

Sammy Adkins: Tribute to Keith Whitley

Submitted by Ralph Stanley legend (see all reviews from this person) on 1/30/2017

Where Purchased: Online - Ebay

Overall Comments

I'm not sure how many CD's Sammy Adkins has made, I have only managed to acquire this one but what a great recording it is. We all know Sammy through his work with the late, great Ralph Stanley, and this recording just carries on his great vocals and love for that traditional mountain Bluegrass sound.

The recording is full of  heartfelt Bluegrass, my favourites being Ashes of love / Somewhere between / and the title track- A tribute to Keith Whitley. If you like Ralph's mountain style of Bluegrass, do yourself a favour and get hold of a copy of Sammy's CD.  It's also a great CD to play along to, a lot of the songs are in G / A and great to practice too.

Well done Sammy,

Cheers

Dave Nixon

England

 

Overall Rating: 10

Dan Gellert: The Old-Time Tiki Parlor presents Dan Gellert

Submitted by banjo bill-e (see all reviews from this person) on 5/12/2016

Where Purchased: Elderly

Overall Comments

This is a combo CD/DVD with the same material presented on both formats and consists of Dan alternating between solo fiddle and solo clawhammer banjo, with about half adding vocals. It's all Dan and it's all live and all very real and and all awesome!

Now, you either like solo mountain-style fiddle with it's screech and squawk or you can't be in the room with it, so you will know in the first few seconds of "John Henry" if you are going to hate this, (as my wife does!), but if you don't hate it and hang with it you may find that it grows upon you with every listening until it becomes one of the coolest things you've ever heard. Dan's cross-tuned fiddle often sounds like two fiddles playing together as he saws and sings, or growls as the case may be. I find this sound to be most addictive!

As for clawhammer banjo, Dan is as good as it gets, with rhythm that always makes you move. Dan plays steel and gut but always fretless. His takes on Coo-Coo and Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms are fresh and unique. And he has his own little licks and tricks that I can't figure out for the life of me. Nobody sounds like Dan. 

This is very raw music and it's very vital and engrossing. It is NOT background music---crank it!

All in all this is one of the most enjoyable recordings that I have ever heard and just keeps getting better with more familiarity. If a Dan Gellert fan then this is essential. For anyone else tired of music which is copycat,  too-slick, and sterile, this is your antidote, right here!

Overall Rating: 10

The Ozark Highballers: The Ozark Highballers

Submitted by witty banjo related username (see all reviews from this person) on 7/3/2015

Where Purchased:

Overall Comments

Fuckin cracker of a record! Clarke Buehling channelling your favourite fingerpickers; Seth Schumate, harmonica wizard; Aviva Steigmeyer and Roy Pilgrim adding some great guitarin and fiddlin. Every track a winner...first record I've paid for in years, and worth every cent.

Do yerself a favour, grab a copy.

Overall Rating: 9

Stephen Wade: Banjo Diary

Submitted by pjxndvm (see all reviews from this person) on 2/1/2015

Where Purchased: Elderly

Overall Comments

This is a wonderfully fresh listen every time I hear it. This is NOT a bluegrass cd with Scruggs or melodic banjo playing, so if that is what you are looking for, you won't find it here. This is a banjo recording that doesn't pigeon hole the playing into a typical style. The songs follow the melody. It is a very fresh sound. This Cd falls into the old time category music more than anything else. One of my top five favorites.

Overall Rating: 10

Anielle Reid : Ain't Like 'Em

Submitted by Danielle of red winter (see all reviews from this person) on 1/20/2015

Where Purchased: Aniellereid.com

Overall Comments

I have never heard anything like this. If urban banjo is a genre this would be the prototype. Anielle has beautiful clear vocals and the banjo is so full and present in every track. The lyrics are not typical of a folk album but the delivery is, with a lot of harmonies and strong singing it is definitely an Americana album.

With a lot of music sounding good but the same this album is truly refreshing.

Overall Rating: 9

Appaloosas: Appaloosas

Submitted by snozzle (see all reviews from this person) on 12/18/2014

Where Purchased: on line

Overall Comments

CD and band review - Appaloosas, we first heard the band a the Cornish Bluegrass Festival back in 2013.  It was one of those very, very rare sets where every song was a great joy. Eliza's voice is so crystal clear and so well suited to the genre that we though she was a "Bluegrass Angel" just down form the Appalachians! The bell like clarity f her voice was matched by the flawless accuracy and rhythm of Peter's banjo playing with Stephen's soulful fiddle playing rounding off the amazing sound 

Often you hear a abnd live, buy the CD, find it limp and never listen to it again. we have most of the CDs of most of the greats of the genre and believe that Appaloosas is their equal in all respects. It gets played the most.

Overall Rating: 10

Leroy Troy: Son of the South

Submitted by 74rider (see all reviews from this person) on 11/18/2014

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

If you like clawhammer banjo solo's, this is a good'n. It's all Leroy and his banjo singing and playing all great traditional songs by himself. If you have a desire to break out on your own, this will serve as great inspiration.

Overall Rating: 10

Chance McCoy: Chance McCoy and the Appalachian Strings

Submitted by 74rider (see all reviews from this person) on 10/31/2014

Where Purchased: Amazon

Overall Comments

Great Fiddle music but also some great clawhammer banjo. I liked Gospel Plow and Dance All Night the best.

Overall Rating: 9

David Holt: I got a Bullfrog

Submitted by 74rider (see all reviews from this person) on 7/23/2014

Where Purchased: Can't remember

Overall Comments

This is one of the best collections of old-time fun clawhammer songs with a full band. Love the sound. Ever since I saw DH on Hee Haw playing "The Cat Came Back", I was hooked.

Overall Rating: 10

David Holt: Grandfather's Greatest Hits

Submitted by 74rider (see all reviews from this person) on 7/23/2014

Where Purchased: Can't remember

Overall Comments

This is another 10 as far as I'm concerned. Lots of good clawhammer playing here with a full band and classic songs. Great harmonies and notable guest performances.

Overall Rating: 10

Detour: Going Nowhere Fast

Submitted by randyl (see all reviews from this person) on 7/20/2014

Where Purchased: Banjo Hangout

Overall Comments

Great band and a great recording ! . This band is new to me, but I was very surprised . The cd is  made up of  8 original vocal songs, 2 original instrumentals and 3 written by other people.  

Vocally  Missy Armstrong handles all the lead vocals very well and with Jeff Rose and Scott Zylstra and their harmonies blending very well together. Mandolinist  Jeff Rose wrote the 2 instrumentals , Three, Two, One and $100 featuring all these accomplished musicians .They also do a great twist on an old Johnny Nash song "I Can See Clearly Now".

The highlights in my opinion are the 2 original gospel songs "Ain't Gonna Wait" and "I'm Not Home Yet" plus the upbeat "Traveling The Highway Home" written by Walter Bailes and Frankie Bailes . 

The cd is finished with Missy Armstrong demonstrating her dynamic vocal ability on "America the Beautiiful .

I really do believe we will hear more from Detour in the future , and we will all be blessed for it.

The band is members are as follows:

Missy Armstrong / Vocals

Jeff Rose / Mandolin,Vocals

Scott Zylstra / Guitar , Vocals

Peter Knupfer / Violin

Jeremy Darrow / Double Bass 

Lloyd Douglas / Banjo

Overall Rating: 10

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