The Richmond Register

March 14, 2013

Al, Alice & Ruth free concert, CD release party at Berea Arena Theater on Saturday


Special to the Register

BEREA — The Berea-based bluegrass band Al, Alice & Ruth will celebrate the release of its new album “Let the Mountains Roll” with a free concert and CD release party 8 p.m. Saturday at the Berea Arena Theater.

Alice McLain White and Ruth McLain Smith grew up in eastern Kentucky, playing music with their brothers, Raymond W. and Michael, another sister, Nancy Ann, and their father Raymond K., as the “McLain Family Band.”

Al White also grew up playing music, but in New Mexico, playing in bands with friends.

He came east to play with the Bluegrass Alliance based in Louisville.  

Al and Alice met and got to know each other in a flurry of bluegrass music festivals.

They married in 1977, and he joined the McLain Family Band, which performed bluegrass music across the U.S. at festivals, with orchestras, in concert halls and outdoor parks.

The McLains toured extensively overseas, sent by the U.S. State Department to represent Kentucky and the United States through music.

Later, when members of the McLain Family Band had children of their own, the professional stage took a backseat.  

Al and Alice White remained in Berea and enjoyed playing occasional concerts as a duo, and playing for folk and contra dancing.

Ruth McLain Smith returned to Berea a year and a half ago, to help care for their mother. Almost immediately, Al, Alice and Ruth began playing music together again.

The music they play is upbeat, Appalachian-flavored bluegrass music. Instruments include banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass.

“Let the Mountains Roll” is the title song written by Berea College alumnus, Billy Edd Wheeler. It begs for the listener to let the mountains roll on, free from mountain-top removal strip-mining effects.

“Wonderous Love” is an expressive hymn, a deep-rooted family favorite. “When the Storm is Over” is a lively song, written by Bob Lucas. Folks love to hear the claw-hammer banjo on that one. Another favorite on the CD is “My Lazy Day,” in which Smiley Burnette writes about one of those days when fishing seems to take too much effort.