“All Suited Up” (LP) by THE Kody Norris SHOW
The Kody Norris Show need no introduction in bluegrass circles; for the past decade, their eponymous leader and his band of players have been making respectable contributions to the story of the genre they love (and building up quite the reputation along the way), and their new album All Suited Up is yet another fantastic chapter. Opening with a stud single in “Brand New Hit in Nashville,” All Suited Up doesn’t try to fill out its tracklist with a lot of virtuosity exclusively, but gives us as much simplicity in songs like this one, “I’m Going Back to the Mountains” and “Kentucky Darlin’” as it does erudition in “Ole Carolina,” “Love Bug” and “Virginia Bound.” Honestly, this could be the best sampling of this group’s talents to date.
“Farmin’ Man” plows into us with a lot of aggression only to reveal a surprisingly warm vocal harmony from Norris and bandmates, including wife Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris and Josiah Tyree; one of my favorites on the LP. Though “Virginia Bound” is perhaps just as reliant on its rhythm to make a statement to the audience in this setting, it feels a just a bit more stage-ready than some of the other songs here – including its neighbor “In the Shade of the Big Buffalo.” I don’t know for sure what the band was thinking ahead of this record’s release, but their selection of material definitely has an introspective mood I wasn’t anticipating coming into this review. It’s a pleasant and welcomed feature, and one I’d like to see in their future output as well.
While “Uncle Bill’s Still” and “Let’s Go Strollin’” are cut from the same cloth artistically, they’re musically two entirely different animals. Where “Bill” drives home a hard-charging groove like the fate of bluegrass depends on the tempo of the band playing the song, “Strollin’” is more controlled, hesitant even, alluding to an unbroken romance forged in imperfect circumstances. Both are reflective of real life and not limited by any conventional creative parameters; contrarily, they show the listener that The Kody Norris Show is more concerned with substance than they are flash. That’s hard to come by in a lot of popular music nowadays, but it’s luckily being kept alive by independent players like these, whose work speaks for itself, as audibly as their sequined, retro suits.
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“Lady of the Evening” thrusts Nalley-Norris into another important harmony before All Suited Up turns the spotlight over to the complete band in “Whatcha Gonna Do,” the powerhouse ending to this spectacularly engrossing album. I’ve had the luxury of getting picky with my bluegrass over the years, having found that the genre’s elite have been more consistent in their production of provocative content than many of their country music counterparts are contemporarily, and The Kody Norris Show remains one of my go-to bands for feel-good jams and retrospective aesthetics reminiscent of any well-spent childhood in the shadow of Appalachia. It should be noted that the album was brilliantly produced by a guy who knows a thing or two about traditional music — Darin Aldridge of the multi-award winning duo of Darin & Brooke Aldridge. It’s melodic soul food for those of us who grew up on the music of the mountains and those with a casual interest just the same, and all in all I think All Suited Up is an LP no roots music devotee can afford to go without this spring.