Gary Brewer & the Kentucky Ramblers,
Home Brew
(Copper Creek, 2001)

This is a feel good CD that will lift the spirits.

The first title tells it all -- "Elvis on Velvet and Monroe on Grass." This is beautiful, light-hearted song that tells the story of bluegrass being over taken by rock 'n' roll but showing us that it has more than survived. "Dance in Old Kentucky" brings images of an oldstyle barn dance with its spare production adding to its authenticity. You can smell the hay and home brew.

No album of this genre would be complete without a train song, and "Chattanooga Dog" fits the bill perfectly. All aboard and enjoy the ride. "Poor Ellen Smith" goes back to the roots of great bluegrass music. A song learned by Brewer from his grandpa, it tells the tale of a true-life murder and reminds us of so many such tunes that travelled the oceans and up the mountain trails to evolve from Irish and Scottish folk into bluegrass ... and often on into country and mainstream pop when circumstances permit. It is interesting here as a foot-stomping murder song.

Bluegrass and gospel are so well entwined that it was no surprise to find an excellent spiritual track, "God Was There." The excellent liner notes tell us that Brewer sang this song many years ago in his home church. This is simple, sentimental gospel -- gospel as it should be.

"Molly and Mildred" is a brilliant story song from the pen of Tom T. Hall and Dixie. It is haunting and very visual. It cries out for a video. Listening to "I Haven't Seen Mary in Years" is like taking a time machine back to the 1940s.

Woody Guthrie is featured with "Pastures of Plenty," and that old pop hit of decades ago "Sea of Heartbreak" gets a loving and very good bluegrass gloss, which I adored. The CD ends with another old song, "Little Liza Jane" from Gary's father.

The combination of varied tunes, excellent production values and top-class liner notes make this a great buy -- all I missed was a lyric sheet because these are songs that everyone would love to sing along with and they are so simple that even the worst voice could enjoy the experience.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 23 March 2002

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