Valerie Smith – Blame It On The Bluegrass (CD Review)

Valerie Smith – Blame It On The Bluegrass (CD Review)
1. Blame It On The Bluegrass 2. Where The Sun Never Shines 3. Slow Healing Heart
4. Four Leaf Clover 5. A Good Day, Lord 6. No Vacancy (feat Valerie Speer and Kraig Smith).
Label – Bell Buckle Records (P) 2010 Valerie Smith
Digital Release – 23 Nov 2010 (Amazon)
Time – 19:49
Valerie Smith originally hails from the town of Holt (Population 300), Missouri and made her way to be nearer to Nashville. For her, Music City is now an hour’s drive north away, currently living in a tiny Tennessee hamlet called Bell Buckle. Her sound is drawn from elements of the mid-west with a pot-pourri of country, blues, folk, blues, and bluegrass. Last year in association with the International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM) Smith assembled her friends Ernie Evans, Rebekah Long and Becky Buller and members of her touring band Liberty Pike, to teach school groups from across Daviess County, Kentucky.
The spin-off from this project was a decision to record an album at the IBMM facility. In so doing they created their own piece of history becoming the first artists to cut an album there.
They built a makeshift studio and after the school lectures were finished scheduled recording sessions.
In between takes, I would walk around the exhibits, reading the incredible stories about the artists, feeling the passion that we all have for this beautiful genre – bluegrass” Valerie shares.
The much respected musician and songwriter Becky Buller produced this “six-pack project” and she also adds fiddle, guitar and vocals. This is the first part of 12 songs they recorded with a follow-up Volume 2 of six songs due to appear later this year. (Making the album Video)
The lively opening title track (written by Buller and Elizabeth Shrum) was selected by Valerie – “Because everything that I’ve done over the last years on the road I could blame it of bluegrass music, I love it so much!” said Smith. She taught at an Elementary School and was involved with an advertising agency –“I lost my mind and became an artist, forget it all, I’m going to sing music and travel on the road” she jokingly shared. The pace moves faster than a railroad train on this number with Ernie Evans (banjo and mandolin) and Buller (fiddle) trading licks and adding some suitably high lonesome Ooh-ooh-ooh’s on harmony. Valerie admits to her love affair with the genre with the words: I think that I’ve fallen head over heels in love with you. Then she later pleads her innocence “I’m a law biding straight arrow” to a police officer whilst explaining away a speeding offence with a happy-go-lucky line: Something strange came over me while listening to the radio, I hope you understand!
Smith, playing the role of a forlorn wife, dishes out the dirt on a faithless husband on the menacing ‘Where the Sun Never Shines’ (written by Douglas O. Flowers). He’s broken every vow and she has thrown in the towel with words: I don’t want to think about you / Told you a thousand times
Ready to seek new pastures whilst turning her back on love with a cutting and painful fiddle she declares: I’m going to where the nights turn to day I won’t need to care about your wild and your wicked ways
The sad country weeper ‘Slow Healing Heart’ written by Jim Rushings was first cut by Vern Gosdin on his 1984 album THERE IS A SEASON. Valerie’s vocal squeezes every bit of pain with each aching line sung, where, after break-up, a woman’s spirits are broken. She will however always remain guarded against making the commitment again, with words: Against looks that are tender and words that are hard Because I still remember those cutting remarks Oh its painful, a slow healing heart
The pace is lightning fast on the upbeat ‘Four Leaf Clover’ where both love, money and luck runs out every which way! The prayer lines busy and she can’t get through. The fiddle riffs that close the track have a ‘Devil went Down To Georgia’ vibe.
The joyful, uplifting and spiritual ‘A Good Day, Lord’ is sung from the heart with sincerity by Smith. Written by Buller and Nashville songwriter Jeff Hyde it scores a six with the roll of the dice.
The country gospel number ‘No Vacancy’ (written by Merle Travis and Cliffie Stone) was recorded by Travis in May 1946 immediately after World War II. At that time the sign was commonplace as people and returning veterans struggled to find somewhere to live. The track was suggested to Valerie by her friend and musical historian Dave Freeman from Rebel Records. There are some minor alterations to the original lyrics with his adaption. Smith is joined on the chorus by her husband Kraig Smith and legendary gospel artist Ben Speer. The lead singer of the influential family group The Speer Family and Gospel Music Assoc. Hall of Fame inductee adds his lower register to this bluegrass gathering.
I looking forward to next 6-track offering.

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