Scenic Roots “Grounded” review by Ernie Hill
©Scenic Roots LLC 2012
Mountain Dulcimer, Fiddle and Claw-hammer Banjo. Don’t expect to hear “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie” or “Red River Valley” on this recording! Scenic Roots rocks these instruments with a mix of contemporary, bluegrass, mountain traditional songs and tunes. They even throw in a Celtic medley! Scenic Roots–Erin and Amber Rogers, are from Concordia, KS. They make up a sister act without equal. These young ladies were playing Roots Music long before the industry identified it, segregated it, and created a “new” niche genre. They have won more awards for their musical talent than most acoustic musicians twice their age, and have been touring the nation practically non-stop, doing over fifty shows a year since graduating with commercial music degrees from South Plains College in Leveland, Texas in 2010.
Their new self-released, and self published album, titled Grounded, is a collection of great Americana/Roots music. Erin Rogers, the 2004 Walnut Valley National Mt. Dulcimer champ, the youngest ever to win that award, performs on that instrument with a master’s touch, skilled knowledge of the craft, and most importantly, soul. Add that same soul to Amber’s fiddling, banjo and mountain-influenced high lonesome vocals and you’ve got a Scenic trip through Americana/Roots music, Scenic Roots music. Co-produced, recorded and mastered at Red Squared Studio in Siler City, N.C, by Daniel Routh and Levi Austin. They also accompany the duet on some of the tracks providing guitar, bass, bluegrass banjo and harmony vocals. These guys know how to mix and master acoustic music! This recording is superbly ear-friendly on each and every track.
“Grounded” represents the girl’s newest favorite tunes, including the Gillian Welch tune, “Orphan Girl”, which the Rogers sisters also transformed into a moving, highly praised video by the same name, featured on YouTube and at the Scenic Roots website, filmed and produced in Springfield, MO, by Justin Cardoza of Flourish Films. The audio was recorded and produced in Wichita, KS, by Mark Mazure of Signature Sound Studios.
The album starts out reflecting the ladies spiritual upbringing and current values with “Road to Damascus”, a contemporary, new-grass feeling tune about Saul’s conversion to Christianity written by their friend and South Plains College classmate, Mike Voth.
That’s followed up by a beautiful rendition of Donny Lowery and Wendy Waldman’s tune, “You Plant Your Fields”, made famous by Newgrass Revival. “Salt Creek”, a popular traditional fiddle tune, will let all nay-sayers know that the Mountain Dulcimer, at least in the hands of Erin Rogers, is a bona-fide bluegrass instrument, with licks picked in a way that a lot of guitar flat-pickers are sure to envy. Amber doubles on banjo and fiddle. She carries this talent on by harmonizing with herself on “Molly and Tenbrooks” and “Mole in the Ground”, reminiscent of the Kossoy Sisters early recordings from the 1950’s and 1960’s. “Water Bound”, played on Amber’s 1880’s banjo, is a haunting tune about being trapped in a flood, away from home. My personal favorite is “Stray Dogs and Alley Cats” written by Harley Allen. The combination of the earthy rich dulcimer and fiddle, along with Amber’s interpretation of the down to earth honest lyrics, and you’ve got this big old man in tears! Every track on this recording is cut to near perfection, the best you could ask for.
Having watched these young women grow and mature from little girls in a family band to becoming considerate and celestially gifted musicians and performers in a highly competitive genre gives me hope for the world. These ladies thank the Creator for their gifts and their lives and this reflects in their personalities and music. “You Don’t Have to Move That Mountain” by the late Keith Whitley, is a testimony to these ladies faith and the obstacles that they have overcome, with Erin beating Hodgkins Lymphoma and Amber having to wear a therapeutic boot for over two years after complications involving some broken foot bones due to a freak accident. (ask her!)
In their liner notes, an honest insight into Scenic Roots, they mention that they are ever expanding in their musical tastes, while staying true to their Roots, that they are indeed “Grounded” but not stuck! Visit Scenic Roots at their website, Reverb Nation, and Facebook. You can hear sound bites from “Grounded” at scenicroots.com/groundedextras.htm