The Roys,
Lonesome Whistle
(Rural Rhythm, 2011)

With the ascension of Allison Kraus and a few others, we got a softer and gentler bluegrass. Instead of the fire-breathing mandolin of Bill Monroe or the mind-bending banjo of Earl Scruggs, we got a new and more melodic form of the music. Bluegrass stretched out, moving away from thundering versions of "Rocky Top." The music became more interesting and more complex.

Brother-and-sister duo the Roys are believers in the new bluegrass. They don't throw away the old -- they can swing and do the hard-charging solos as well as anyone, but they also know when to lay back and let their songs speak for themselves. And the songs speak just fine. "Coal Minin' Man," which opens the album, begins with a soft guitar run, followed by Lee Roy's vocal on the verse. As he comes to the chorus, the band kicks in and sister Elaine chimes in with the high harmony vocals ... and you know you're in good hands here.

"That's What Makes It Love" shows the Roys' respect for tradition by bringing in Ricky Skaggs & the Whites to sing with them. It's also the first example of the spiritually oriented material that centers this album. Then with the third song, "Nothin' I Can Do About It Now," gives us traditional, hard-charging bluegrass. It features Scruggs-style banjo and an instrumental break that trades solos. Elaine Roy gets her share of lead singing turns as the album progresses, and she acquits herself well. The rest of the songs blend ballads and bluegrass, and the Roys are equally adept at both.

Both Roys are accomplished lead and harmony singers, as well as good writers and musicians. They not only know how to play and sing, they know how to construct a set and create a balanced album that continues to offer pleasure from start to finish.

Lonesome Whistle is an album you'll really enjoy on first hearing and will grow to love as you experience it more.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

4 June 2011

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