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The Crown Jewel of American Root Albums and Some You May Not Know

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Alison Krauss + Union Station Live

Rounder Record – Mobile Fidelity Sounds Lab

180 gram, 3 LPs

Alison Krauss + Union Station Live


A2           Choctaw Hayride
A3           The Lucky One
A4           Baby, Now That I've Found You      
A5           Bright Sunny South
B1           Every Time You Say Goodbye
B2           Tiny Broken Heart
B3           Cluck Old Hen
B4           Stay
B5           Broadway
C1           Ghost In This House
C2           Forget About It
C3           Faraway Land
C4           A Tribute To Peador O'Donnell Let The Hogs Out
D1           The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn
D2           Take Me For Longing
D3           I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow
D4           Maybe
E1            We Hide & Seek
E2            But You Know I Love You
E3            When You Say Nothing At All
E4            New Favorite
F1            Oh, Atlanta
F2            Down To The River To Pray
F3            There Is A Reason


I think this it, truly the Crown Jewel of American Roots music and yes I know, this 3 LP Box Set is out of print and sells for a small fortune, but my-oh-my what a performance. Whether it’s Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas’ masterful playing of the dobro, or the incomparable blue grass band Union Station, the music is incredible. The live version of “New Favorite” and “Down by the River to Pray” are amazing. The album is both a musical and recording masterpiece. Even if you can’t find it on LP, get the CD! (I must be reading wrong. -Pub.)


Sarah Jarosz – Follow Me Down

Sugar Hill Records

Sarah Jarosz Follow Me Down


  1. Run Away
  2. Come Around
  3. Annabelle Lee
  4. Ring Them Bells
  5. My Muse
  6. Floating In The Balance
  7. Old Smitty
  8. The Tourist
  9. Here Nor There
  10. Gypsy
  11. Peace

I could have easily listed both of Sarah’s LPs on this list, but it I had to pick just one it would be Follow Me Down. Thank goodness, I don’t have to make that choice for my listening pleasure, even though she was only 20 years old when she recorded this, her second album from Sugar Hill Records. Sarah is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter. If you’ve never listened to Sarah’s music, shame on you. Her approach to acoustic music is invigorating; she puts all her heart into playing, singing and writing. Her choice of songs is expansive and vital.

Follow Me Down shows her definite bluegrass influence. Her husky, alto voice brings these songs alive. My favorite song is “Annabelle Lee”, but nearly every song draws me in and I find them really enjoyable. If you like female vocals, modern bluegrass, or folk with punch, then you should give this album a try. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.


Sheffield Lab: Confederation

Larry McNeely with Geoff Levin and Jack Skinner



Side A
1.  Liza Jane
2.  Swallow
3.  Paradise
4.  Old Joe Clark
5.  Big Fat Mama
6.  Simpson’s Holler

Side B
7.  Saturn
8.  Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arm
9.  Paddle Wheel
10. Slow Train
11. Honeysuckle
12. Train No. 2
13. Sweet Evening

Most of the early Sheffield Direct-to-Disc recordings were strictly audiophile type without much real musical value. There were some exceptions and this LP is my favorite. Once in a while you get a recording that sounds real; I’m not talking about sonics, but the feeling that it is a real event. Such an event took place in 1977, when banjo player Larry McNeely called his friends Geoff Levin and Jack Skinner and ask them help him make a bluegrass album for Sheffield Lab. By the way, in 1977 Larry McNeely was the featured banjo player on Glen Campbell’s television show.

I promise you this recording makes you feel like your sitting on one end of a big old fashion front porch and they are performing at the other end. The musical performance itself is just wonderful and very toe tapping. The sound is equally good; it seems that bluegrass music was made for direct-to-disc recording. The presence and the warmth of this recording is a testimony to Doug Sax’s “single point” microphone technique. This recording can be found on LP used and I think you can still buy the CD; but get the LP, it’s worth it.


Norman Blake – Tut Taylor – Sam Bush – Butch Robins – Vassar Clements – David Holland – Jethro Burns (More commonly knows as Sauerkraut and Solar Energy)

Flying Fish Records

Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns


  1. Sweet Georgia Brown
  2. Sauerkraut’N Solar Energy
  3. The Old Brown Case
  4. Take the “A” Train
  5. Going Home
  6. McKinley’s Blues
  7. Oconee
  8. Vassar and Dave

This Flying Fish recording is very interesting. In someways it is very traditional bluegrass. There are mandolins, mandocellos, guitars, fiddles, banjos and an incredible standup bass played by jazz bassist Dave Holland.

It was recorded in 1974 in a Nashville recording session. While everything about it says bluegrass, it also has hints of jazz, western swing, and folk. The track selection is incredible and the album is just pure fun. I’ve had this LP since 1974 and I’m not parting with it. You can still find it used for very reasonable prices and it also is still available on CD.


Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn


Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn


  1. Railroad
  2. Road to U
  3. What’cha Gonna Do
  4. Little Birdie
  5. New South
  6. Pretty Polly
  7. Shotgun Blues
  8. For Children
  9. And Am I Born to Die
  10. Banjo Banjo
  11. What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?
  12. Bye Bye Baby Blues

Washburn and Fleck are a husband and wife duo. I’m pretty sure most of you know Fleck, but Washburn may be new to you. I have enjoyed her LPs and was really excited about this duo album. I’ll be honest: I really, really like this music. They didn’t confine themselves to playing their usual workhorses, Washburn’s Ome Jubilee and Fleck’s pre-war Gibson Mastertone Style 75. On this recording the two of them used seven different banjos, including a cello banjo, a ukulele banjo and a baritone banjo that Fleck commissioned specifically for this album. There are beautiful full tones on this recording that I would have never guessed one could get from a Banjo.

There are two absolutely, breathtaking ballads sung by Washburn on this album; her “Ride To You” and the traditional “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” The only thing negative about this LP has nothing to do with the music. I would just like to know why Rounder couldn’t have given us a quieter pressing? I know they can from many other LPs I have on their label. Still, I would not be without this music.


June Carter Cash Press On

June Carter Cash Press On


  1. Diamonds In the Rough
  2. Ring of Fire
  3. The Far Side Banks of Jordan
  4. Losin' You
  5. Gatsby's Restaurant
  6. Wings of Angels
  7. The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore
  8. Once Before I Die
  9. I Used To Be Somebody
  10. Tall Lover Man
  11. Tiffany Anastasia Lowe
  12. Meeting In the Air
  13. Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Press On is a Grammy-Award winning second album by singer June Carter Cash. It was released in 1999 by the Risk Record Label. It has been out of print for years, but now has been reissued by Dualtone. The recording features guest performances from Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart, Rodney Crowell, and Norman Blake. This is a LP of great music by a great artist on an instrument we seldom hear on recordings, an autoharp. On this album we get to hear her sing such moving hymns as “Diamonds in the Rough” and then classic like the touching, acoustic version of “Ring of Fire,” which June co-wrote. June concludes this warm and personal disc as she began it, with a moving spiritual rendition of her family’s standard, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Like the above LP this is not an audiophile recording, but it sure is great music!

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10 Responses to The Crown Jewel of American Root Albums and Some You May Not Know

  1. Brian Wilson says:

    Have you heard Rhiannon Giddens? Rolling Stone put it well: “Carolina Chocolate Drops singer gives roots music a shot in the arm on solo debut [Tomorrow Is My Turn]”. Catch Rhiannon and The Drops on their current tour, if you can.

  2. David Spella says:

    A great big thanks on your recommendations!
    I found an excellent condition Norman Blake (etc) album via Amazon. Amazing jamming’ and virtuosity. Bluegrass/jazz at it’s very best! It’s always gratifying to discover great music.
    All the best.

  3. Mike says:

    Hi Jack,
    Alison has the voice from Heaven. Glad to hear she is doing okay and singing again. I’ve been getting into Gillian Welch lately, deep, dark and beautiful. Don’t forget perennial bluegrass master Peter Rowan! The self titled album from 1978 is the quintessential cosmic cowboy masterpeice.

    One of my friends put me onto Rhiannon Giddens recently. He said she is his favorite female voice ever. I have to admit that it didn’t hit me quite so hard but I understand.

    As always – thanks for your work.

  4. Tom says:

    Larry McNeely was no longer Glen Campbell’s banjo player by 1977. Carl Jackson replaced Larry around September, 1972. Larry was doing studio work in L.A. and leading his own group by 1977.

  5. peter says:

    I would add Carrie Newcomer to that list

  6. Jerry Belben says:


    Your comments on Sheffield Lab and the Larry McNelkey disc prompted me to go digging through my vinyl collection which I had stored until very recently. Low and behold I found a sealed copy of After Midnight by The McNeely-Levin-Skinner Band ( Sheffield Lab TLP 30) Can you tell me what the difference is?

  7. Jerry Belben says:

    I would like to know what it is valued at, and then go from there.


  8. Robert Slugg says:

    The Roches doing “Married Men” on the Bread and Roses 1980 concert album. Whomever mixed it got Suzzie to appear dead center and 6 ft behind the wall of the listening room, just where she’d be on stage. I use Confederation to test sound gear. I told the salesman that I was impressed that he continued to talk with another customer while Slow Train was playing. Everyone else just stops everything to listen, and I often just stop breathing.

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