- Knowing no sideboards, they have great opportunity to explore and innovate.
- Reviewer: Joe Ross, North County News, Bluegrass Now, SPBGMA Music, Old Time Herald News
"The Andy Rau Band celebrates 20 years in existence this year (2006), and Higher Ground is their fifth album. Shortly after being introduced to their music in the early 1990s, I invited them to Oregon to perform at the Myrtlegrass Festival. They were a nice addition to the lineup to illustrate the many brands of bluegrass and related music. I have great respect for musicians who live in the future, mavericks like Rau who write their own music and follow their own muse. A banjo-player, singer and songwriter, Andy Rau creates modernistic music. Because they don't have Appalachian roots, these musicians use bluegrass instruments to create their own enchanting and cohesive repertoire with folk, rock and pop influences. One immediately notices that the 5-string plays a more subordinate and supporting role than it would in driving bluegrass music. Guitar and mandolin also complement the lyrical messages, and there is more of the former than latter. I just wonder if some of Andy's songs (e.g. Til I Found You) could also use percussion, saxophone or fiddle in places for added embellishment. It’s probably just my personal preference for a little more in the instrumental department. Knowing no sideboards, they have great opportunity to explore and innovate. Using Scruggs tuners, the instrumental Warren's Ride is a driving numberthat would've really hit me like an express train with a few more instruments featured. Of special note on this project is the strong duet, The Best I've Found, sung with Elaine Upton.
The Andy Rau Band is Andy Rau (banjo, guitar, lead vocals), Les Johnson (guitar, vocals), Evan Anderson (mandolin, vocals), and George Boravich (bass, vocals). Andy likes to address the themes of nostalgia, broken promises, aging, mistreatment, rejection and deception. The bridge in It Didn't Surprise Me states that "Every time I walk in these shoes, I feel like I was born to lose. Every time I open my heart, someone reaches in and tears it apart." There are times when Andy'ssongwriting reminds me of Richard Shindell, Scott Miller or maybe even Tom Petty. I’d like to see what a rock band could do with some of his songs.
Whether crazy, troubled or sane, "Suzie" is certainly a wild one who has an affectionate place in Andy's heart. It's the only track that includes Les Johnson's drums. The title cut asks, "If the river's overflowing, wouldn't you move to higher ground? That's you to me ... You're my higher ground." Besides his interesting lyrics, I like the rhythms and dynamics that the band incorporate. The resourceful Andy Rau Band has its own identity with an acoustic style built primarily to interpret Rau's thoughtful songs. And they're genuine.
- The original material is well written and presented by musicians second to none.
- Reviewer: Johnny Pierce, Bluegrass Now Magazine
Higher Ground is the fifth album produced by the Andy Rau Band, who, for the unfamiliar, has been around more than 20 years making music. Considered by traditionalists to be a musical maverick. Rau’s
CD will please the bluegrass adventurer more than mainstream fans.
Andy’s music starts with the title cut, “Higher Ground,” a soft and flowing song. “Time Keeps Ticking” acknowledges the brevity of our sojourn on earth while reminding us that time only goes one way. “The Best I’ve Found” a serious love song, features some fine harmony by guest vocalist Elaine Upton and a nice clean guitar solo by Les Johnson. Other band members include bass player George Boravich and mandolin player Evan Anderson.
Andy’s high tenor voice is well suited for the music and the melodic harmony makes for a nice listening experience for all but purists who may want more of the “roots” sound. The original material is well written and presented by musicians second to none. Although this music will probably not be of interest to all bluegrass fans, many will enjoy this album. I look for more from this fine group.
They are the best "stories" I have heard in a long time. so refreshing.
Reviewer: Carolina Bridges, Deering Banjo Company
Loved the songs. They are the best "stories" I have heard in a long time. The banjo sounds great...thanks for that!! And I loved the guitar work on the CD as well. "Warren's Ride" is one of my favorites. You guys had some great harmonies on this CD. "Lost In The Years" was really good too. I thought the lyrics were so good in all the songs; I like calling them "songs of life". You are rather like a modern day "troubadour" ...telling the tales of our life today in a very special way. Congrats on a wonderfully produced project!ly, musician
- If there were justice in the "folk world" this song would be bumping the next Kenny Chesney/Jessica Simpson duet off the charts. heir sound is so refreshing.
- Reviewer: Dennis Roger Reed, FolkWorks
The Rau Band's newest, Higher Ground, travels further from bluegrass central than any prior recording. Certain elements remain: swift instrumentals with more chord changes that most bands use in a full set; witty songwriting; stellar mandolin, guitar, banjo and bass chops; but the tact here is to provide great music, not just great bluegrass. One would be hard pressed to imagine Monroe singing Suzie, a song about a poor girl who has some big problems, including keeping her clothes on. Think Fountains of Wayne more than The Clinch Mountain Boys. Nostalgia for Andy's Southern Californian youth bubbles to the surface on both Time Keeps Ticking and Lost in the Years. Up Here on Mars doesn’t remind you of Ralph Stanley, either, and It Drives Me Crazy touches on political commentary. But just because this isn't your father's bluegrass doesn't mean it's not great stuff.
Perhaps the high point of the record is the one song most unlike any recorded by the Rau Band in the past. The Best I've Found is a country ballad featuring wonderful harmonies by Elaine Upton. We've not heard Rau's voice with a female singer in the past, and this song shows how strong that concept can be... Rau sounds particularly vulnerable, and Upton is a tremendous understated vocalist who occasionally throws in a nice falsetto or unusual phrasing. If there were justice in the "folk world" this song would be bumping the next Kenny Chesney/Jessica Simpson duet off the charts.
If you like some pop and rock with your grass, and your taste in vocalists include both Paul Simon and Bill Monroe, this is the recording for you. And even if you consider yourself a stalwart member of the Bluegrass Police, there's enough hot pickin' here to hold onto. Buy it, you'll like it.
- ...reminds me of Lennon / McCartney structures and images.
- Reviewer: Bruce Cameron, Come All Ye, Radio CSU-Mitchell, Bathhurst, Australia
"Thanks for sending out a copy of Penny Moon. I've enjoyed it right through, and congratulate you on a fine album. Your lyrics extend beyond some of the more familiar bluegrass themes and remind me of Lennon / McCartney structures and images. And that's a good thing for me! I hope you do as well as they did. Thanks again and best wishes for the success of the album."
- It reminds me a bit of the Eagles...
- Reviewer: Phill Morley, Editor of The Banjo Gazette, London, England
"Here is another great band that I found on the Internet. Andy's banjo playing is very much like Larry McNeely, and that's not surprising as he was inspired by Larry. There is some fine banjo, guitar and mandolin on this album. They have an electric bass which fits in very well with their style. From the first track through the last, it's exciting and tight harmonies. Some of my favorite (harmonies) are on Make No Mistake. It reminds me a bit of the Eagles with a touch of bluegrass. The opening track is great too, I could relate to this song! L-O-V-E is another fine track, those smooth vocals and some fantastic guitar and banjo weaving in and out with the mandolin creeping in. Penny Moon is a kind of bluesy instrumental. If you like original material and more of a new grassy sound, I suggest that you look this band up and get hold of this.
- Modern and genre-bending...
- Reviewer: Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times
"The Andy Rau Band's approach is modern and genre-bending applying bluegrass accents to songs steeped in contemporary folk and country, with hints of pop and rock as well. The group's prime strength is an instrumental attack founded on inventive, dramatic arrangements, full of pregnant pauses and resonant chording, and keyed by fiery, fluid soloing on banjo and guitar."
"Once again, thank you so much for being part of our event. You added a great vibe and energy to the evening. I look forward to working with you and Les in the future.”
-- Desiree G. Gutierrez, MPP, Impact & Engagement Strategist
- The Andy Rau Band's new CD 'Higher Ground' is just that.....HIGHER GROUND!
- Reviewer: Ron Ely, Musician
"The Andy Rau Band's new CD 'Higher Ground' is just that.....HIGHER GROUND! It has a great variety of music that makes the listener forget to turn it off when it's done. I've heard it over and over, and can't wait to hear Andy and the band do it live again. Andy is a pro songwriter, banjo picker......The band members are each great in their own right, and the list goes on and on. This CD is right in the
- I'll be doing my best to get the word out in Nashville! Their sound is so refreshing.
- Reviewer: Dave Higgs, Nashville Public Radio
It has been awhile and that's a shame since I always thought you always had something to say in a completely different, new and exciting way--words that still thankfully apply to "Higher Ground," a wonderful collection of originals which you've smartly arranged and sing like you mean it. I really enjoyed all the autobiographical allusions and references to California. Just knowing (presumably) that you're a Tigers fan is cool. I was especially smitten with the title track, "Lost in the Years," "Up Here on Mars" (my favorite!), "Promises and Lies" and "Warren's Ride."Thanks again for the fine music! I'll be doing my best to get the word out in Nashville and in our other syndicated locations." Ron E
- This is one fine album, sure to grow on you with each listen.
- Reviewer: Joes Falletta, In Tune Magazine, BASC
"It's always gratifying to follow the progress over time as someone in love with his craft hones it, perfects it. It's not a job, it's a love affair. So it's been fun listening to the Andy Rau Band over the past few efforts: tightening, experimenting; each album becoming more and more professional and interesting than the last. Andy and Company have put together some excellent music here: ten authored by Andy, the haunting title cut by Andy with guitarist Les Johnson, and one more, Les' White Flash, a sweet, thoughtful instrumental that belies its title.
Likewise, Andy's songwriting has come a good ways. There's the real clever opener, Half a Heart, that's sure to draw a few chuckles as well as nods of agreement. This is one fine album, sure to grow on you with each listen. I already have my favorite cuts."
- You think that you have heard the best song, but wait until the next one...
- Reviewer: Al Shusterman, Backroads Bluegrass KCBL, Sacramento, CA
"WOW! As soon as I played the first song on this CD, I knew it was going to be a real winner. The combination of fine bluegrass musicians, great original material and wonderful vocals makes this CD a must have for bluegrass enthusiasts.
- This is one fine album, sure to grow on you with each listen.
- Reviewer: John Roemer, Bluegrass Unlimited
"Andy Rau certainly has an ambitious reach on this modern 'grass disc'. He does the lead singing, plays the banjo, writes 11 of the 12 songs, and probably does most of the arranging. The arrangements are bracing and varied enough and the picking, featuring mandolin and lead guitar along with Rau's banjo, is enjoyable, even exciting. Les Johnson's guitar really steps out on the breaks, full of flash and fire, without the irritating overkill of so many hot guitarists."
If CD's were dinosaurs, Penny Moon would be a T. Rex!
Reviewer: Dave Weide, Producer and host of Mostly Folk on KUNV, Las Vegas, NV
"Penny Moon arrived today. YES!! YES!! YES!! It's great!
Great songs (Lyrics that really work) Great Harmony!! Great Pickin'!!
Do you realize how rare it is when those four attributes come together?
Hey Andy, if CD's were dinosaurs, Penny Moon would be a T. Rex!"
- Mr. Rau could probably gain some renown as a poet...
- Reviewer: Frank Overstreet, SPBGMA , Kirksville, MO
"The members of the Andy Rau Band can flat out pick! Each member contributes just the right amount of each instrument in the correct place on each song... Mr. Rau could probably gain some renown as a poet if he should choose to move in that direction."
You think that you have heard the best song, but wait until the next one and it even gets better. I think the best way to describe this CD is anticipation. You can't wait until the current song is done in order to hear what is next. I played the CD in its entirety, and the listener response was overwhelming. Each time you play this CD you find out what you missed the last time you heard it. Based on the number of listener requests I have received I will be playing all or parts of the CD for weeks to come."
- The Andy Rau Band is a sophisticated, well-honed group in the finest 'California' tradition
- Reviewer: Dave Higgs, WPLN-FM, Nashville, TN
"Penny Moon is a powerful record - full of intelligent, hard-hitting tunes; fine singing; and, of course fast and furious picking. I especially enjoyed Half a Heart (a fine choice for the lead-off track), If You Know What I Mean, Kathleen, the title track and, Jackson County. The Andy Rau Band is a sophisticated, well-honed group in the finest 'California' tradition. Thanks again for the superb music! I’ll do my best to help spread the word here in Nashville."
- ...sensitive insights to the human condition.
- Reviewer: LR, Bluegrass Now Magazine
"I really think it's wonderful to find so many original songs on this album. Bluegrass is starved for new material and Andy Rau has helped to alleviate that hunger through his sensitive insights to the human condition."
WHAT ABOUT THE FANS...
- Higher Ground is like a crisp breath of mountain air!
- Reviewer: Elle Thompson
The sounds from Andy Rau's new CD are so refreshing! What a nice change from the dull sounds from the masses. The lyrics evoke nostalgia and the innocence of simpler times. This is our CD of choice for our family!
- this album was a wonderful surprise
- Reviewer: Dick and Harriet Friedman
What a great surprise for us old folks to enjoy this music so much. Sheer pleasure to hear music that is ageless, that speaks a universal language--and lyrics that speak to one and all.
- The best of all 3!!!!
- Reviewer: Lorraine O'Brien
This is the BEST of the 3 CD's I've listened to. My favorite song, and one I constantly go back to is The Best I've Found. The vocals are awesome, and that song gives me goosebumps. Kudos to Andy and the band. They are a VERY talented bunch of musicians that we enjoy seeing on a regular basis! Les plays that guitar with such passion, it's just amazing to watch. George is fantastic on Bass, Evan has a way with that mandolin, and of course Andy, his passion for banjo is awesome. A fantastic group of individuals that come together and play beautiful music together! I can't seem to put Higher Ground down!!!!!
- Amazing songwriting, seamless band playing, honest songwriting
- Reviewer: Patricia
What a huge amount of talent possessed by Andy and the entire band to make such a great CD. The band plays seamlessly, the added vocals with Eileen are an added enhancement to a wonderful clear sound. I especially love the song "Suzie", a honest tribute to our struggling loved ones and our unending love for them. Heartfelt and honest. Keep up the great work. Music from the WEST Coast Rocks!
- Refreshingly different, hot licks, creative lyrics... good music!
- Reviewer: Captain Dave
In a time when rock has lost it's creativity and country has become a commercialized revolving door, Andy Rau's latest CD Higher Ground lives up to the title track. Being from California I can totally relate to songs like It Drives Me Crazy and Time Keeps Ticking. Add unique tunes like Up Here On Mars and you got the total package. My favorite is the last tune, Your Heart Is Made Of Stone a banjo rock tune that really jams. This CD is truly refreshing, keep up the good work Andy!!!!
- Can't get enough!
- Reviewer: Gary Ramey
Higher ground is my favorite CD thus far. The band it self is spectacular! You just can't seem to get enough of their music. When the CD is over, you set it to play again. I worry that I will ware it out. If I had to pick just one song (which by the way is extremely difficult because they are all great) the song "Warren's Ride" reaches out and grabs your attention. The way that Andy plays his banjo just seems to captivate your attention. Les Johnson’s guitar skills floor me, he really knows how to make his guitar sing what else is there to say.
- Andy Rau belongs at the top of our list, you are the man! heir sound is so refreshing.
- Reviewer: Steve and Kathy
Thank you so much for the new CD, it is fantastic. The new songs are incredible the best ever we think. George is masterful on bass as always. Les, well what else can you say about Les that hasn't already been said, he's an incredible musician. Evan plays the Mandolin like he invented the instrument. Last but certainly not least Andy Rau. Kathy and I have seen a few performers and banjo players in our life including Tom T. Hall and Roy Clark, they are some of the best but the name Andy Rau belongs at the top of our list.
- Andy is one heck of a writer… their sound is so refreshing.
- Reviewer: Robert
Been listening to the CD... the bass is playing is so tasty and beautiful.... Andy is one heck of a writer and the CD sounds fantastic. I enjoyed all the songs... particularly Lost in the Years, As Long As You're Beside Me, Promises and Lies... and my favorite...Higher Ground...GREAT STUFF!