Rob McNurlin: Rhinestoned

Back in September, I told you about Rob McNurlin, a friend of mine from Ashland, KY who plays a unique blend of folk, gospel, and classic country. When I saw him in the fall, Rob gave me a copy of his new CD Rhinestoned. I’ve been meaning to post a review of it ever since, but somehow always managed to get distracted.

Well, last Friday night, Rob just happened to be passing through Knoxville and stopped by the studios of WDVX to participate in a little hoe-down with a few of The Hackensaw Boys. After the show, Rob stuck around and hung out on the air with me for a bit to play a few songs and talk about his new record. After talking with Rob on the air, I realized that I never got around to writing that review I had promised him. I figure it’s about time that I do.

Rhinestoned is a tribute to a classic country sound that has all but disappeared these days. Rob has always been a student of the classic sounds and traditions and counts Hank Williams and Johnny Cash among his biggest idols and influences. This album draws on those influences and traditions and seeks to re-introduce them to a new generation. Despite numerous nods to the past, this is not a covers collection. All the songs on the project were written by Rob McNurlin with the exception of “99 Years,” a song he co-wrote with Tom T. and Dixie Hall.

The authenticity of the sound comes from connections just like that. Tom T. Hall is one of the seminal voices of country music’s past, and his involvement only strengthens the link to the era of music Rob is immortalizing here. In addition to Hall, steel guitar master Kayton Roberts also lends his skilled hands to the proceedings. Roberts played in Hank Snow’s band for thirty years, and plays throughout this record as well. Rob plays one guitar that was once played by Charlie Collins on The Grand Ole Opry. Another guitar was strung with a set of strings that came off of one of Johnny Cash’s old stage guitars… strummed with one of Johnny Cash’s picks. The link to, and the love for, the music of the past is authentic.

As with most of Rob’s recordings, there is also a strong gospel influence on this album. “Why’s the Church Fallin’ Down” is a lament for an empty house of worship, and the people who have let it fall into a state of disrepair. “The Only Bible” reminds us that actions can often speak louder than the written word, while “On the Rock and Roll” is an alter call in a song. Rob’s gospel isn’t preachy, but it does capture the sound and soul of the church house music that so many of us grew up with on Sunday mornings in the south.

I’m going to share two songs from the album with you here today. First is “Hillbilly Blues,” a country blues number that really features Kayton Roberts on the steel guitar. Second, “For a Song,” a sparsely arranged song that relies simply on Rob and his guitar. It recounts wonderfully the life, sacrifices, and struggles of a working musician who gives up nearly everything else for his music.

You can find out more about Rob McNurlin and order his CD’s at his website. Rhinestoned is available now on Buffalo Skinner Records.

Rob McNurlin: Hillbilly Blues (Buy Album)
Rob McNurlin: For a Song (Buy Album)

2 Responses to “Rob McNurlin: Rhinestoned”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    GREAT REVIEW!!! I really enjoyed it…sorry to have missed hearing Rob on the show. I will certainly pass this link along to others that will find it equally interesting!

  2. Please do…Rob deserves some more exposure.

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