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Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band

Roots of My Raising – 2013 (Melody Roundup Music)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Clinton Gregory Bluegrass Band

Clinton Gregory returns to the national scene after an absence of over a decade. Between 1990 and 1995, he released 6 albums then returned in 2000 with "Play Ruby Play." His sound was what is now called "classic" country, which probably explains his exit from the recorded music scene between 2000 and 2012. Artists that sound like him (and Paycheck, Pierce, Price, the list goes on and on) have had a tough row to hoe in a market that embraces what is now called country music. In 2012, he released a country CD, "Too Much Ain't Enough," and addressed this issue in Too Country For Nashville.

With "Roots Of My Raising" Gregory takes a stab at bluegrass. Although mention is made of "finding his roots" or "returning to his roots," it's an open question if he's returning to his roots or just trying to find a new outlet by branding his music as bluegrass. Some country artists do bluegrass by recording all their country hits with acoustic instruments, and that doesn't make bluegrass. Gregory decided to do 11 covers and 1 original, and he has some bluegrass standards that he does well, though he's a crooner rather than a what-else-but-bluegrass singer like Dan Tyminski. It's that, plus the selection of several country songs, that put this CD somewhere between the bluegrass and country worlds.

Looking For a Place To Fall Apart was a 1984 number 1 hit for Merle Haggard, and Living With the Shades Pulled Down, played at a fast clip by Gregory, was another Haggard hit. I Never Go Around Mirrors has been recorded by numerous country artists (Frizzell, Whitley, Watson, Haggard). It's sometimes heard on the bluegrass circuit, but it's still a country song, and Gregory gives it an acoustic country treatment including a harmonica. A harmonica in bluegrass is rare, and this just makes it sound more like a country CD. New Patches is an '80's hit from Mel Tillis, and the title song takes us back to the '70's and Haggard again.

So where's the bluegrass? How Mountain Girls Can Love is a great bluegrass number though not optimal for Gregory's vocal delivery - he always seems on the verge of not getting all the words in. He's better suited to Earl Scruggs'Somehow Tonight and other old gems like Dark Hollow and Little Cabin Home On The Hill.

Some bluegrass fans may resent what seems like a country artist "coming home to bluegrass" as opportunistic, like country music fans have resented pop stars who turned to country to resurrect their careers. That aside, this is good music from a talented artist with good musicians backing him. If you don't get caught up in genre identification, you'll listen to this CD over and over.