Rural Rhythm Records, RUR-1120, (2014)
CD Review by Hermon Joyner
Do you have a hankering for traditional bluegrass? Missing the old high and lonesome? Well, The Roys are here to take care of you by serving up some of the best old style bluegrass I’ve heard in a while. The Roys are led by brother and sister, Lee and Elaine Roy. You can always tell when siblings sing together; their voices blend in a way that’s difficult to duplicate in any other way. Genetics are hard to beat. Bluegrass has been filled with family acts since the beginning and The Roys are just the latest incarnation of this trend and from the opening notes of Lee’s mandolin, you know you are in for a treat.
Lee and Elaine take turns sharing the lead vocal duties. Both of their voices seem steeped in the country—which seems a bit mystifying since they were both born in Massachusetts and raised in New Brunswick, Canada, but whatever—and Elaine’s voice is close in character to a young Dolly Parton. Both are strong singers and together, they are heavenly. And all of the songs are originals, too. Either they write them together or Lee writes some with other folks, and all sound as if they could be from decades ago. This is traditional bluegrass through and through.
Lee’s mandolin playing is really fine, as well. He plays mandolin, mandola, and mandocello throughout the CD, and all are made by Steve Sorensen of Santa Clarita, California (Sorensen was profiled in Mandolin Magazine in the Winter 2013 issue). This album is both a good showcase for his playing and for Sorensen mandolins, because he sounds really good; great tone and clarity in every note. Lee’s playing is clean and the notes just pop out of his mandolin.
The songs travel familiar ground as befits their traditional approach, dealing with death and love and hard living and misfortune and faith. All of the music is upbeat, though a few of the songs are grounded in difficult subjects. Even Alzheimer’s gets The Roys’ treatment here in the song, “Sometimes,” a bittersweet look at this devastating disease. But the hard facts of life have always been a part of bluegrass and country music and especially the blues, so I suppose you could look at this as a topical update of subject matter in a traditional music form.
The View is a solid introduction to this bluegrass duo that perhaps more than a few people are unfamiliar with. For some reason, they don’t seem to attract the notice that a lot of bands do. But they have won Best Inspirational Bluegrass Band four years in a row from the Inspirational Country Music Association, so they must be doing something right. I really liked this album and if you like traditional bluegrass, I think you will like it, too. Pick up a copy.
Song List: No More Lonely; Those Boots; Heaven Needed Her More; Live the Life You Love; The View; No More Tears Left to Cry; Northern Skies; Black Gold; Mended Wings; Mandolin Man.