Clinch Mountain Echo

The Charlie Sizemore Band - Gravel Road

(Rutabaga RR-3013) 1988

Gravel Road
Rear Cover Side One Bluegrass Unlimited advert Oct. 1986 Bluegrass Unlimited picture Oct. 1987

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After leaving the CMB's in mid-August 1986, Charlie put together 'The Charlie Sizemore Band' and placed an ad in the Oct. edition of 'Bluegrass Unlimited'. The following month, the magazine announced the band's personnel, with the only difference from this LP's line-up being Nathan Sizemore rather than Heath Van Winkle on bass.

The new band's debut album was recorded at River Track Studios in Louisa, Ky over three days - 8-9th and 13th of August 1988. Released later in the year on the Old Homestead subsidiary label 'Rutabaga', it is a decent but fairly routine affair. Only two songs are written by the band, Jeff Roberts' Go And Break Another Heart and Charlie's Once Upon A Time, with another track being Buddy Griffin's arrangement of the fiddle tune Snowflake Reel. The remainder are mostly covers or song-writer fare.

Much of the material has a country feel. For instance, Walk Softly On The Bridges had been recorded by Mel Street and Tammy Wynnette in the early '70s; (When You Feel Like You're In Love) Don't Just Stand There had been recorded by Carl Smith in 1952 and Ernest Tubb in 1961; and You Never Cross My Mind had been recorded by several artists including Lousie Mandrell, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, Millie Jackson & Isaac Hayes, John Conlee and Deborah Allen.

Sidewalk Ballerina has a cajun flavour which is quite interesting, and Charlie obviously has a knack for picking songs with clever lyrics.

The title track, Gravel Road, which is another of the album's highlights is quite catchy; and only one track has a 'Stanley' connection - the Delmore Brother's Fast Express which the Stanley Brothers also recorded in 1961.

The album got a good review in the Sept. 1989 edition of 'Bluegrass Unlimited' which concluded:- "Rutabaga Records should be congratulated for putting out a very clean and well mixed pressing of this fine effort by Sizemore and his band. The selection of songs, excellent production, solid support by the instruments and above all the fine lead singing of Charlie Sizemore make this album an easy one to recommend. Buy it!"

No doubt Charlie had a lot on his plate around this time. Shortly after leaving Ralph, he'd become a father and by the time this album was release he was raising two small children, studing at University and leading the band!

In an interview with John Wright in the July 1990 edition of 'Bluegrass Unlimited', Charlie gave a bit of background behind the band:- "I had my band together a month before I left Ralph's band. I'd made an abortive attempt to do this I guess six months earlier and I couldn't get the right people to put together a decent show so I put the brakes on it. It was just trial and error. I'd try combinations of musicians until I finally got one that seemed to fit in terms of personality and common interests in music and all of that".

"Buddy Griffin, who was the original fiddle player in the band I eventually ended up with, was living in West Virginia. In fact, he was Director of Culture and History of the state of West Virginia when I called him and asked him if he knew of any good fiddle players. I knew he played the fiddle and knew he would recognize one if he heard one. He said, 'Yeah, I know one. Me.' And that's exactly how that came about. It really surprised me."

"Jeff Roberts, who was the origainal banjo player, lived in Cincinnati. We met down near Ashland, Kentucky, sometime in June or sometime in July, early. And we played some together and I thought then that we had the makings of a pretty good band at the time. We discussed this on the phone a time or two and we eventually nailed out the details of it and I got a few bookings and we went to work... simple as that. If that's simple. It's not as simple as it sounds. That's basically how it came about."

"My brother, Homer Nathan played bass (originally) and he soon got tired of it. I needed a bass player and I got in touch with Heath (Van Winkle). He came to me highly recommended by people who know music so I knew he could play. I'd never met him. And I just picked up the phone and called him one afternoon and invited him up to my house, which is about an hour and a half away from where he was living, in McKee, Kentucky - Jackson County. I was living in Salyersville, Kentucky, at the time. And he came up one afternoon and when I heard him play two songs I hired him right then. He's an excellent bass player and he knew all my songs and was really enthused about picking."

Charlie later re-recorded Down In The Quarter on his 'Heartache Looking For A Home' CD in 2010.

PS: If anyone has better images for this one, please get in touch via the Contact page - thanks!

Side One:
Gravel Road

Jackson Lee Leap
Walk Softly On The Bridges

Dallas Frazier / Arthur Leo Owens
(When You Feel Like You're In Love) Don't Just Stand There

Cherok Henley / Ernest Tubb
Fast Express

Alton Delmore
Sidewalk Ballerina

Melvin E. Besher
You Never Cross My Mind

Rafe Van Hoy / Deborah Allen / Claude Jr. Putman
Side Two:
Down In The Quarter

Sonny Tackett
The Boy You Left Behind

I Take The Chance

Ira Louvin / Charlie Louvin
Snowflake Reel

P.D. arr. Buddy Griffin
Once Upon A Time

Charlie Sizemore
Go And Break Another Heart

Jeff Roberts


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