Album Review of
Songs of a Simple Life

Label: Pinecastle

Genres: Bluegrass

Styles: Traditional Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel

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Written by Joe Ross
June 18, 2021 - 11:00pm EDT
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Based in Nashville, Merle Monroe is the perfect name for the collaborative partnership of guitarist Tim Raybon and banjo-player Daniel Grindstaff as they channel the spirits of the Okie from Muskogee (Merle Haggard) and Father of Bluegrass (Bill Monroe). Formed in 2018, the band’s Songs of a Simple Life is their sophomore release and follow-up to their very well received Back to the Country project in 2019. Raybon and Grindstaff also have an exquisite vocal blend that captures the soul of their hit material, much of it penned by Raybon. Confidently, the band opens this set with his “Hello Sunshine,” and they close with a couple of his compositions, “Forget About You” and “God’s Still in Control.” Songs like the hard-driving “I’m Leaving Town Tonight” and poignant “Shelby Tell Me” also have engaging messages.  Merle Monroe’s covers of “Goodbye Marie” and “Roll On Muddy River” are also standout tracks, and for something a little more countrified, check out their acoustic arrangements of “(I’d Be) A Legend in My Time” and “Saginaw Michigan.” Their incandescent music has been calibrated with a solid, stylish, radio-friendly twang.     

The album also features Derek Deakins (fiddle), Kent Blanton (bass), Stephen Burwell (fiddle), Andy Leftwich (mandolin), Harry Stinson (percussion), Trey Hensley (guitar), Kevin Richardson (guitar), Gaven Largent (resophonic guitar), Harry Clark (mandolin) and Josh Swift (resophonic guitar).  Songs of a Simple Life was released with the goal of presenting songs relating to everyday life and go “back to the country” to take your mind away from today’s current distractions. As their music encapsulates heartfelt emotions and captivating visuals, we hear the product of highly developed bluegrass songcrafting and arranging for the 21st century.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)