The Velvet Blue is a relatively new band out of Hillsboro, Ky. Formed in 2012, the band is Brian Cooper on guitar and lead vocals, Carrie Johnson on bass and lead vocals, Taylor Hampton on mandolin, and Megan McKamey on banjo and harmony. Their debut recording brought them to Steve Gulley and resulted in an album of eleven tracks—five of them originals, four are lesser-known covers, along with “If I Needed You” and “Old Kentucky Home.”
With songs such as “Old Kentucky Home” and Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” it’s hard to go wrong. Both are classics, though obviously not in the same way. The Velvet Blue give them both good airings. Johnson brings a stateliness to the latter, while Cooper captures the parlor feel of the Stephen Foster chestnut. As good as they both are, though, the true gems of the recording are “When The Crops Are Laid By” written by Lee Penland and “The Night My Grandpa Died” written by Cooper. These classics bring with them such renown, it wouldn’t take much to make them likable, but the latter two, both of them slow and emotional, let the band’s skill make them likable. Both paint great word pictures and the band’s performance brings vivid color to them.
Also of good quality, though perhaps not as memorable as any of the above, are “I Think I’d Rather Fall” written by Gulley and the Bill Castle tune “Blue In The Blue Ridge Mountains.” That gives this recording six very good to excellent tunes and that, coupled with a bright, crisp energy in the playing and production, make for a solid debut. (Brian Cooper, 4897 Ringos Mill Rd., Hillsboro, KY 41049, www.thevelvetblue.com.)BW