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Cherryholmes II - Black and White
Review By: Jim Moulton, CSO Staff Journalist

Produced by Ben Isaacs again, recorded at Ricky Skaggs studio again, Black and White is an appropriate name for this disc. The music sort of has a dark aura over it. Only a couple of upbeat songs with lots of songs of hard times and dreary tales.

Mom, (Sandy) only sings two songs as lead singer on this album leaving the majority of lead singing for banjo picking Cia Leigh. The song "Black and White" is about someone who became a Christian in prison and the woeful tale. Cia sings it. A real slow hard times tune with the prisoner fixing their hope on Heaven. 

There are four instrumentals on this live sounding disc. "The Nine Yards" is a super fast picking song without much of a melody, it's sort of like a race, who can play the fastest. But in traditional bluegrass, they actually have contests for stuff like that. 

Bruce Isaacs produced both CDs, but there is a difference in his approach here, he seems to be looking to catch a performance on the fly with an old fashioned type of recording, not much effects and sounding like a bunch of musicians around one mike, the way they used to do it. The first CD, which I thought was a sonic masterpiece was more of a modern recording with some effects added and I think overall the material on the first disc was better. Sandy Lee did more of the lead vocals on the first disc and I think she has the best voice in the group, yet I see her pushing Cia (who also is good) to be more the lead singer of the group. They say in concert, all of the members take turns singing the different songs, one song is not always done by the same singer. Don't get me wrong , the new disc is a very good recording, it has a different texture to it, more jangly and the instruments more squashed together where as on the first disc there is much more separation and some compression and ambience reverb to sweeten things up. Jere' s bass has some punch added to it where as here, sometimes it gets lost, just two different schools of thought.

Personally, I am a big fan of newgrass. This year there have been several great CDs released in this genre. Number one right now one the Bluegrass chart on Billboard "Hornsby and Skaggs" recorded right here at this same studio. Donna Hughes, The Greencards and Carrie Hassler and Hard Rain have put out great CDs. So there is more competition for this group than when they broke on the scene with their first great disc in '05.

They are the only true family band though still growing in style and on their instruments. They should be around for awhile, unless the kids decide to break up and go their own way. They spend three hundred days a year on the bus, their home on the road. Their publicist calls them the next generation of bluegrass, I would say that they are more like keeping the old sound alive. 

"Bootstrap Bill" is another hi-speed instrumental, NASCAR style, personally I am more inclined to like creative melodies like the instrumental on their first disc.

"Mansions and Kings" is a brilliant gospel song sung by Sandy, it is a slow dirge, but the lyrics are very sweet. "When I get to heaven, the angels will sing" - very sweet harmonies!!

One thing I have always missed about this group is no blistering acoustic guitar runs, I guess as Skip grows older, he will get more space to share his craft, it is odd here as he plays a jazz type guitar on some songs which gives a different feel. Meanwhile, the fiddles, banjo and mandolin dominate the instrumental parts.

Donna Hughes CD is produced by the great Tony Rice and he puts down some of the sweetest acoustic guitar that I have heard in awhile. It would be nice to see this group use someone like Bryan Sutton or Cody Kilby to fill in some bluegrass guitar.

"Greedy Hands" is another song about being in prison and waiting to die, much like the title track. This is a good listen for the traditional fan of bluegrass, it would be neat to hear a live CD from this group since they are on the road so much.

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