I’ll be real honest with you. I don’t listen to Bluegrass as much as I should. I love Bluegrass music. I love the history, the passion and certainly the musicianship involved. But for some unholy reason, Bluegrass just doesn’t make into the iPod and on the turntable. And that is my own fault. I have the utmost respect for the musicians and tradition of Bluegrass, and yes I have been known to burn up the dance floor with some mountain dancing. Damnit! Why don’t I listen to Bluegrass more!?
Enter Dallas Moore and his mother, Madgelee Hanes Moore.
When I first got word that Dallas and his mother would be releasing a Bluegrass album, I raised my hands high to the good Lord above. I don’t know what I said, but all I know is I raised my hands in jubilation. New music from Dallas Moore is always an adventure to listen to because of the build up and anticipation. You hear the new songs in his live shows and you know there is a story behind those songs. During those songs you have created your own story. And all that translates well to his albums. However, above all that comes the passion that Dallas Moore has for the music he plays. And it all accumulates into his latest release with his mother, Old Time Family Jam.
Am I surprised how good this is? No. I have seen Dallas Moore play two hours of Bluegrass and bring the entire house down, so I always knew his veins bled Bluegrass and that his grass was blue! But the real surprise comes with his mother, Madgelee Hanes Moore. Mrs. Moore’s contribution compliments Dallas style. Dallas has always had an edge to his music, but Mrs. Moore’s talent lies within the ability to wrangle that edge with her vocals, dulcimer and autoharp producing a sweet, old-fashioned sound. Dallas balances it all out lending his talents to the banjo, mandolin and bass.
Old Time Family Jam starts with the John Prine classic, “Paradise”. However it doesn’t take Dallas long to kick it up a with “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arm”. Absolutely love it! And no Bluegrass album would be complete without a nod to the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe, as the Moore’s take on his classic “All the Good Times are Past and Gone”.
The “Jam” only clocks in at 25 minutes, but it is so good it is almost as if Mama Moore and ole Dallas packed in 60 minutes of Bluegrass into 25 minutes. I can close my eyes and envision the Moore’s jamming on Bluegrass somewhere in Kentucky. Maybe it is here in Lexington at the Tuesday Night Bluegrass Jamboree at the bowling alley. Maybe it is at the Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horsepark. Hell, I could even hear this sitting on the porch at Cracker Barrel on a Sunday morning. Can I sit on the porch and eat breakfast? And here is a tip for you. Turn down that bass, crack open some of Kentucky’s finest and enjoy the intricacies of the banjo, dulcimer and autoharp. Pure pleasure to the ears!
If I can take a few songs and imagine how a video would be for it, and the details are vivid, then that is a good album. How does the song set up the imagery? That is the case with “Shade Tree/Ole Slew Foot.” I can picture ole Dallas and Mrs. Moore playing this at a guitar pull, or at barn dance, or around a fire or a still in eastern Kentucky, and damn if there isn’t some bear raising hell and gittin amongst it. Somewhere between O’ Brother Where Art Thou and a Looney Tunes cartoon is how I am seeing “Ole Slew Foot” playing out. And I can’t forget about Hee Haw Pickin n’ Grinnin! When you can envision the song, it makes it that much better!
From the hightail adventure of “Ole Slewfoot” the Moore Family takes us down to the “Banks of Ohio”. The lyrics take you on a dark journey, but the bright spot in the song is the musicianship possessed by Dallas and his mother. The mood continues with “Rank Strangers”. Peaceful but haunting. Old time gospel with an attitude. The harmonies between Mrs. Moore and Dallas blend perfectly, but also adds as certain mood reflective of the title. Lord, “Rank Strangers” could squeeze a tear out of boulder.
To me, the album really shines with “Wildwood Flower”. Just sit back and relax and let that sound take you back. Enjoy the woven pattern that the mandolin, banjo, guitar and autoharp has produced. Attach a good memory with that song. Perhaps a time when ya heard Dallas play it at one of his live shows. Or perhaps it brings back shades of Jesco White and when ya first saw the Dancing Outlaw. Regardless, it is beautifully produced and essential to this album.
The album wraps up appropriately with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. The lyrics paint a picture that we don’t want to encounter, but we take comfort knowing what is on the other side of that picture. The background vocals from Mrs. Moore is that of a sweet comforting voice. The tempo of the song is at the perfect pace to keep your spirits high. Once again, the musicianship shines from this traditional “family jam.”
The back of the cover reads “A collection of traditional songs carrying on our Appalachian family heritage”. It is every bit traditional and authentic. I would expect nothing less coming from a man who has acted as most importantly friend, but teacher as well. That teacher has re-introduced Bluegrass to me, which was obviously passed down from his teacher. Mother Madgelee Hanes Moore.
And that is why Old Time Family Jam JAMS!
Old Time Family Jam is available at dallasmoore.com