Review: Marty Raybon – The Grass I Grew Up On

MARTY RAYBON – The Grass I Grew Up On

As a kid, Marty Raybon was bit by the bluegrass bug . in a big way. Former Shenandoah lead singer Raybon was raised on bluegrass, and he’s never let the music flee from his heart. Marty cut his teeth on bluegrass as part of his family band (American Bluegrass Express) with his father and two brothers. About 1985, the seed was planted and cultivated for Marty’s

Alabama-based popular country group, Shenandoah, which had a number of hits.   Despite his many country music awards, the soulful singer felt a strong calling to honor the Lord, as well as to play that type of joyous acoustic string music that continued to burn in his heart. With Marty playing rhythm guitar, Full Circle has released three albums of traditional bluegrass and gospel music, and “The Grass I Grew Up On” came out about the same time that his country project (“When The Sand Runs Out”) also did. Thus, Marty’s expressive messages are finding its way onto both bluegrass and country radio airwaves.

Truly a band with camaraderie, Full Circle includes Shane Blackwell (lead guitar), Ashby Frank (mandolin), Glen Harrell (fiddle), and Edgar Loudermilk (bass). On banjo, Patton Wages plays for most of this album, but he’s decided to spend more time with his family and working as a land surveyor. Full Circle’s five-stringer is now Derek Dillman, formerly a Sunny Mountain Boy with Jimmy Martin, who appears on one track (Standing Tall and Tough). The set’s guests include Andy Hall (Dobro) and Tim Raybon (harmonies).

Andy’s involvement seems rather minimal, but his Dobro presence is a nice aural flavoring in “Dixie in my Eye.” Like Marty, these boys all grew up on ‘grass too. A fine guitarist, Blackwell started learning mandolin at age seven and picked with his father’s group, “Curtis Blackwell and the Dixie Boys.” One of the band’s younger members, Ashby Frank plays mandolin with verve and creativity. He has a solo project out on Blue Road Records entitled “First Crossing.” With fiddler Glen Harrell, Ashby penned an instrumental “The Fuss” for this current album. Playing guitar since age 10, Glen picked up the fiddle at 14 and performed regionally with the bands, Perfect Timing and Steel Faith. Another band member with bluegrass running through his veins is bassist Edgar Loudermilk, who started playing guitar and mandolin in his family’s band at age 9. Prior to Full Circle, Loudermilk and Blackwell both played in a group called Carolina Crossfire before Edgar joined Rhonda Vincent and the Rage for a short period in 2002. A stellar songwriter, he’s releasing an album of his originals in 2007. Finally, Derek Dillman’s father owns Bean Blossom Bluegrass Park in Indiana, and Derek was playing banjo by age 12. Working with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys for three years until Jimmy’s passing, Derek is clearly a young up-and-coming talent to be reckoned with who also has the right attitude and bluegrass in his blood.From the opening salvo of hotly plucked mandolin in Porter Wagoner’s “Highway Headed South (To Dixie)” to the closing statement in the classic, “Roustabout,” this album is full of drive, intensity and impeccable timing.

Marty can remember when he first heard many of these favorite songs..Porter’s television show when Flatt and Scruggs appeared, an Osborne Brothers or Jim & Jesse LP, or a bluegrass festival attended in the 1970s or 80s. As an example, Faron Young’s hit, “Alone with You,” was also on Jim & Jesse’s “Superior Sounds of Bluegrass” album and got plenty of spins on the Raybon household’s turntable. His faith-based devotion is most apparent in “I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand)” and Paul Williams’ “Standing Tall and Tough.”  While liner notes only credit Marty and Tim Raybon with singing, “That Home Above” and “Sit Down (and Pray)” are presented with multiple voices a cappella. Bobby Braddock’s “The Nerve” expresses gratitude to God, as well as to paternal and maternal relations for life, knowledge, good times and love. After hearing The Bluegrass Tarheels at a Florida bluegrass festival in 1974, Raybon bought a record and learned the crowd-pleasing “The Water’s So Cold” that moved him so that day.Marty Raybon associates himself with a number of young, energetic musicians who share his avid enthusiasm for bluegrass. Individually, the band members seem to have charm, conviction and integrity that complement their talent.

Collectively, the group is informal, relaxed, and works well together. While presenting cohesive charismatic songs, they also have fun. Perhaps most importantly, the partnership exhibited on this strong project solidifies the clear musical vision that Marty & Full Circle have established. That strategic foresight capitalizes on the bluegrass music that has circulated freely in their veins since childhood. Marty’s a devoted supporter and big promoter of the music, and he’d like to transfuse others with his affinitive and affective bluegrass disposition too. Back to his musical roots, Marty’s  carrying them on. (Joe Ross)

One Response to “Review: Marty Raybon – The Grass I Grew Up On”

  1. Paul Cummings Says:

    I have been trying to run down Patton since he played with Lost Horizon, (Brian and Maggie Stevens). Do you know how he could be reached. I really appreciate it.

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