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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!

7014 reviews in the archive.

Elvis Costello: Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Submitted by Cousin Jack on 6/13/2009

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Overall Comments

You may wonder, why is there an Elvis Costello review on a banjo forum? Well, banjo suggests bluegrass, and so does this new album from Elvis Costello. I'm a big EC fan, and I have been listening to him since "My Aim Is True" back in the eighties. If you haven't listened to him in awhile, or can only recall the song "Alison" or "Watching the Detectives" you might want to give this a chance.

With an all-star group of session pros including Jerry Douglas on Dobro and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and produced by T Bone Burnett (producer of Alison Krauss/Robert Plant and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? movie), this is right in the vein of bluegrass, country, Americana and Nashville music. It is overall a subtle album, but with Elvis, it's the lyric and poetry that make him what he is... a major league performer and musician. Not the mainstream, top 40, ready to burn out, and lumped into a category musician, but an individual talent who has lasted more than 30 years in the music business and has thousands of dedicated fans all over the world.

To tell the truth, I was excited and expected bluegrass quickness and licks, but this album hasn't got it. Not until you listen to it a few times that the musical nuances start to really stand out. Elvis knows how not to over-do the music, but instead let's every note and phrase speak for itself, and in turn, the music becomes the well-built vehcile that drive the lyrics of well crafted songs home.

This may not be for everybody, and I'm not going to try to persuade you. After all, music is an individual enjoyment and I enjoy this new creation by who I consider a genius of delivering inspirational and thought provoking music and poetry.

Hear samples of Elvis Costello "Secret, Profane & Sugarcane": http://www.elviscostello.com/


Overall Rating: 10

Earl Brothers: Whiskey, Women & Death

Submitted by Cousin Jack on 11/1/2007

Where Purchased: CD Baby

Overall Comments

I heard the Earl Brothers for the first time on a local San Francisco Bay radio show. The thing that struck me about the music was that they sounded so close to the early original bluegrass traditionalists, but with their own edge. The Earl Brothers songs (all original, except foe "Cluck Old Hen") have a toughened spirit that spoke of hardened hearts and drinking from long necked bottles with the bartender in a quiet dive bar while strumming on an old Fender guitar, telling stories of their bad luck.

They have often been referred to as a punk or goth bluegrass band most likely because of their raw and troubled lyrics. But don't let the punk or goth boiler plate make you think that they are just a bunch of young dirty haired, eye liner, and rapid nonsense. Instead imagine Bill Monroe with Ralph Stanley dressed all in black, singing songs about some of the tough days of their times.

The Earl Brothers are the real thing when it comes to bluegrass with unique melodic harmonies, slow pickin' banjo, heavy bass strum-flat pickin' guitar, frilling mandolin, and the tight upright bass. If you like straight talking songs and right to the point about the lost love and tough luck then this is a must have.

Check out samples of their music here.
http://www.earlbrothers.com/

Overall Rating: 10

Earl Brothers: Troubles to Blame

Submitted by Cousin Jack on 11/1/2007

Where Purchased: CD Baby

Overall Comments

This is the second studio album from the Earl Brothers, just as good as the first—Whiskey Women, and Death.

I heard the Earl Brothers for the first time on a local San Francisco Bay radio show. The thing that struck me about the music was that they sounded so close to the early original bluegrass traditionalists, but with their own edge. The Earl Brothers songs on Trouble to Blame are all original and have a toughened spirit that spoke of hardened hearts and drinking from long necked bottles with the bartender in a quiet dive bar while strumming on an old Fender guitar, telling stories of their bad luck with women.

They have often been referred to as a punk or goth bluegrass band most likely because of their raw and troubled lyrics. But don't let the punk or goth boiler plate make you think that they are just a bunch of young dirty haired, eye liner, and rapid nonsense. Instead imagine Bill Monroe with Ralph Stanley dressed all in black, singing songs about some of the tough days of their times.

The Earl Brothers are the real thing when it comes to bluegrass with unique melodic harmonies, slow pickin' banjo, heavy bass strum-flat pickin' guitar, frilling mandolin, and the tight upright bass. If you like straight talking songs and right to the point about the lost love and tough luck then this is a must have.

Check out samples of their music here.
http://www.earlbrothers.com/

Overall Rating: 10

Jackstraw: Live at the White Eagle

Submitted by Cousin Jack on 11/1/2007

Where Purchased: CD Baby

Overall Comments

This Portland Oregon bluegrass band has the finest musicians and songwriting expertise that I have ever heard. This album, as the title suggests is recorded live and has equal amount of original songs to traditional instrumentals. The sound quality is excellent as well as the utterly amazing competence in musicianship amongst the band as a whole, but without the sappy better than thou attitude. These guys are down to earth and real, you can hear it in all their recordings.

With almost 10 years together, Jackstraw should be nominated into the IBMA as one of the the best bluegrass bands of today IMHO. There is nothing that they cannot accomplish with their skill and a sense of ease in their music. They consists of four members—guitar, bass, mandolin, and lead guitar (sorry, no banjos) each sharing vocals. If you like tasteful, blazing guitar and mandolin breaks, then this is a must buy.

For music samples, check Jackstraw out here.
http://www.jackstraw.net/

Overall Rating: 10

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