reviews
Copyright 2017 Philville Records
Ventura, CA 93001

“Fluid and Rapid Fire Picking...true Northern Stump-Plucking”

— Traverse City Record Eagle, Traverse City MI.
"Clever songwriting alongside rearranged classics-- a throwback style that knows good, old-fashioned storytelling...yet is utterly unpretentious about modernity.”

— The Source, Bend OR.
“Original and Entertaining...smooth and as calm as a Northern lake on a warm summer’s evening”

— Howard City MI, Review
“When Carl’s Jr. launched the Western Bacon Cheeseburger in the early ’80s, one of its San Diego restaurants had receipts printed with the rather celebratory phrase “Shit Howdy!” at the top. The Ventucky String Band’s latest, Rush the Growler, is a bit like that surprise: Songs about chasing girls and chasing beer rub shoulders with energetic fiddles, fine guitar picking and harmonious harmonica playing. Titles like “She’s Looking Better Every Beer,” “Bottom of the Glass” and “Sick Sober & Sorry” are perfect for lost Sundays recuperating from the previous night’s alcoholic annihilation. It sounds as if they — bassist Rick Clemens, fiddler Mark Parson, guitarist Matt Sayles, mandolinist Dave White — had a real hoot making the CD (recorded live, in real time, inside a rustic cabin), and the overall effect is not unlike being invited to sit in on the recording session and enjoy the inestimable fruits of their ballsy labors. ”

“On the wonderfully diverse album "Happenstance," half of which was tracked live, the quartet casually conveys its mastery of traditional bluegrass instruments such as the fiddle and the banjo in a way that can only be described as “shredding.” Toe-tapping clever ditties like the swingin’ “Reaper Don’t Care” and the darker “Hell Needs Preachers Too” are juxtaposed by the absolutely sublime instrumental “High Desert Sonata” and “So Much Love in This World,” which could easily cross over into mainstream country radio. My personal favorite is the jazzed-up “Ventuck You,” a laugh-out-loud anti-ode to California girls that features Whiskey Chimp’s Bill Flores playing horns and tenor banjo. 'I’ve seen enough of these girls with big shades on, thinking somebody cares about their goings-on, Struttin’ around like their shit don’t stink, famous in their minds but too busy to think.' Good stuff.”

--Michel Miller Ventura County Reporter
“The Ventucky String Band’s handle is a play on the Poinsettia City’s redneck roots, back when many of those yahoo-friendly folks worked a few miles up the Ventura Avenue in the yet-producing oil fields. Matt Sayles out of Michigan is the frontman; Dave White out of Indiana plays banjo and mandolin; and Rick Clemens, the only California native, plays bass. There’s a new member, fiddle master Mark Parson, who’s one of the former drunken simians in Whiskey Chimp. Also giving a huge helping hand is Bill Flores (of Jeff Bridges' Band "the Abiders"), a master musician who can and does play anything.”

--Bill Locey Ventura County Star
“The Ventucky String Band has been plucking away around these parts since 2010, and in the process has established itself as one of the premier acoustic acts in the area. With its latest release, The Band Plays On, there are two new facets to the group that help take things to the next level. One is Lauren Donahue, who’s joined the group on fiddle and vocals. Having a female voice in the previously all-male lineup now gives the harmonies and vocals a new, interesting layer. The second reason Ventucky String Band is reaching new heights is the songwriting. Groups that focus heavily on the playing (and with the word “string” in the name, they certainly have to) tend to let the actual song take the back seat in order to get to the ripping banjo and mandolin solos. In the case of The Band Plays On, however, Ventucky String Band puts just as much focus on the storytelling and melodies as it does on the actual performance.”

--Chris Jay Ventura County Reporter
"The strong lead vocal on 'Good Woman's Love' and mandolin solo introduction is an album highlight, and 'Honey Don't' has a wonderful rollicking fiddle introduction and a fine flowing presentation. Lauren's 'Careful How You Catch 'Em' has an upbeat vocal with warnings about setting precedents in a relationship and advice to be 'careful how you catch 'em, and how you keep 'em.' This song has some mandolin riffs from Dave and Lauren's fiddle trills like a clarinet.

Matt's songs [on the album] are slower paced and have more of a singer-songwriter sense. 'Breathing Smoke' is a done-me-wrong-revenge ballad with the singer lamenting in a jail cell, and 'Buenos Aires Blues' has a bluesy harmonica and the musings of a 'sorry old fool.' "

--Brenda Hough Bluegrass Breakdown
"The Band Plays On" CBMA Newsletter 2015
Ask members of the Ventucky String Band what they appreciate in the bluegrass and country legends who inspire them, and they will say the musicianship. The new Ventucky String Band album, the expertly woven tapestry of The Band Plays On, has musicianship in spades, in the staccato punch of plucked bass and the über-tight banjo harmonies. Songs like the peppy “Careful How You Catch ’Em” are so note perfect it’s hard to believe they weren’t pulled from a time capsule. But it’s also true to form in the deeply affecting lyrics, lovelorn and honest, like on “Buenos Aires Blues,” when singer Matt Sayles sings, “Time stretched me out, and I’m feeling like a sorry old fool.” Fun, succinct, and moving, too, it’s an accomplished work from a very talented bunch.”
--Richie Demaria Santa Barbara Independent
— David Cotner, VC Reporter, Ventura, CA
Ghost of the Damned, Philville Records 2016

"The title song 'Ghost of the Damned' begins with mournful Mandolin solo joined by echoing dobro accompanying a criminal's story. The crime theme continues with the murder of Roy Lee Centers, the singer who replaced Carter Stanley in the Clinch Mountain Boys. Dobro and harmonica set the tone for 'Cursed Rover' a horseman forever riding till the end of time. The pace of the music uplifts into California Swing rhythm with Matt's song about Swing Music King Spade Cooley who killed his wife and died before he was released from jail. Fiddles abound in 'Herlong Mamma,' and vocals tumble out in tribute to 'mammas that just don't quit.' Guitar dobro and harmonica wrap around the melody as they sashay through the traditional 'Alabama Jubilee.' An album highlight is 'Columbus Stockade Blues' which Matt delivers with a bluesy backbeat and intertwined guitar solos.

Engaging warm vocals, swirling guitar and dobro solos, and a dash of old country rhythm make this an album worth playing over and over again!"
--Brenda Hough, CBMA Bluegrass Breakdown February 2017