Album Review of
Stobro's Blues

Written by Joe Ross
May 12, 2014 - 12:00am EDT
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Although it was 1928 when the Dopera Brothers first created the Dobro guitar, it was the mid-1950s when Flatt and Scruggs really started to popularize the instrument with Buck Graves' inclusion in the band. As a result, their bluegrass was smooth and impressionable. Now, with his Harlow resonator guitar in hand, Ferrell Stowe (aka "Stobro") captures his own carefree, restful, and comfortable sound. "Stobro's Blues" and "Carroll County Blues" and "Wayfaring Stranger" have some evocative melodic licks, and the unhurried renditions of various gospel tunes are also great showcases of Stowe's skill. Coupled with the vocals of Toni Otts, Stephen Mougin and Rick Otts, Ferrell's guitar on his own composition, "Next Door in Heaven," makes a powerful statement. Same goes for the vocal trio of Randy Kohrs, Stephen Mougin and Glenn Lawson on "Making Believe," and of Lowell Appling and Kevin Schults on "Two Coats." Track list for the 35-minute project follows: 1. Stobro's Blues, 2. Two Coats, 3. I Must Tell Jesus, 4. Making Believe, 5. Mary, Did You Know?, 6. Carroll County Blues, 7. Next Door In Heaven, 8. Precious Memories, 9. Wayfaring Stranger, 10. Jewels 

 Mike Scott's banjo only appears on one track (the opening title cut), and it is relegated to a subordinate role in the mix. I actually thought the guitar was a little too heavy in that mix. The album, however, settles into a nice relaxed groove with the help of such splendid and experienced musicians as Stephen Mougin (guitar, mandolin), Jesse Cobb (mandolin), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Dennis Crouch (bass), Tim Crouch (fiddle, mandolin), Dave Maraville (guitar), Ron Pennington (mandolin), and others. Tim Crouch's triple fiddles on "Precious Memories" are especially noteworthy. It can also be a bit tricky to properly mix and equalize the sound of the resophonic guitar. Stobro's album does a commendable job of capturing the highs and lows of the instrument to give it a full-bodied richness, intensity and flavor. 

In his liner notes, Randy Kohrs acknowledges that Stowe was a mentor from the first time he heard him, and Kohrs was "consumed with his brilliance and uniqueness." Originally from Lebanon, Missouri, Stobro now makes his home in Nashville. He's performed with many great bluegrass acts, done a great deal of session work, has five albums out, and is a multiple award winner from SPBGMA. Through the years, Stowe has played with a very young Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill, Josh Graves, Jerry Douglas, Randy Kohrs, James Price, The Sidemen, Dierks Bentley, John Prine and Susie Boggus. One of Ferrell Stowe's five albums is called "Homage" and is a tribute to Uncle Josh Graves, one of his own mentors. Graves was in the audience at the Station Inn in Nashville on 12/6/05 when this CD was released. Stowe's poignant playing will no doubt inspire another generation of resonator guitarists. His bluesy and expressive techniques are definitely worth checking out, if you haven't already done so. (Joe Ross)