Randy Kohrs
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Randy Kohrs

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Before I get to the meat of this review, I wanted to talk a little bit about the venue, the Douglass Theatre. How awesome is it that we have this well-preserved piece of local history here in Macon? It doesn't hurt that it's a great room acoustically. There's no pesky cigarette smoke to get in your eyes. It's a friendly, well-lit place, and if you want, you can buy beer and wine. That aside, I truly enjoyed Friday night's bluegrass show. Local talent Redline Express, who hail from Jones County, proved adept at traditional bluegrass stylings from jaunty instrumentals to plaintive ballads. I especially liked their take on a Gillis Brothers tune, "Room at the Top of the Stairs." The packed house was appreciative, whistling and clapping for every solo. But the true star of the evening was dobro player Randy Kohrs, who played with Monroe, Ga. band Lost Horizon. This Nashville player (I believe he's originally from Iowa) has toured with Dolly Parton and played on his friend Dierks Bentley's latest, Modern Day Drifter. He's got a gorgeous, expressive tenor that easily handles a glissando. But his playing is more expressive than his singing by half, which is saying a lot. And this guy can write a great song. Triple threat alert!Lost Horizon is a talented group. Husband and wife team Brian and Maggie Stephens (on guitar and upright bass, respectively) effectively slid between traditional bluegrass tunes like "Nine Pound Hammer" and more contemporary ones, like songs by Flying Burrito Brothers and Jim Croce. Kohrs's own songs like "Passion's Price" and "I'm Torn" let him showcase his heartstring-tugging vocals. "The bitter, cynical bluegrass songs are probably my favorite," Kohrs said at one point during the show. "They seem to hold the most heart, to me."During Kohrs' song "Hurry Back Jesus", the woman next to me began to sob. It's a funny thing about music. Sometimes it can make us forget our burdens, but other times it brings them home more powerfully.

- Maggie Large, Macon Telegraph


Review of "Im Torn" (Lonesome Day Records)This is high-powered contemporary bluegrass (or even "light country") that kicks off strong with the title cut. The driving tune sets the pace for the remaining 10 songs. Although he is a multi-instrumentalist, Kohrs is primarily known for his Dobro playing. He is joined here by a host of versatile players, including Dolly Parton who duets with Kohrs on "It Looked Good on Paper." Written by Carl Jackson and Pam Tillis, this is one of only two songs on the album in which Kohrs did not have a hand composing. Many will recognize Kohrs from his previous performance work with Parton.Among the dozen and a half musicians who rotate lending their talents are guitarist Cody Kilby, banjo picker Scott Vestal, Josh Williams on mandolin and fiddlers Tim Crouch and Shaunna Larkin-Kohrs, the latter of whom also contributes viola work and some harmony vocals. Other guest vocalists are Carl Jackson and Don Rigsby.There is not a dull cut here; this is a lively CD that swings on the up side of the music. "Handmade Nails and Homemade Love" adds novel lyrics to an age-old theme. The up-tempo "Hurry Back Jesus" is an innovative "moving and shaking" Gospel number that is another album highlight; Kohrs co-wrote the song with Susan Hill, who collaborated with him to write several of the cuts. The mood takes a turn at slow and nostalgic on "Fifty Good Years," while "That's What I've Learned (from Lovin' You)" should be a contender for steady airplay.I'm Torn, demonstrates with knowledge, flair and confidence the expertise of Randy Kohrs. Not only is he at the center of all as lead performer and primary contributing composer, he produced the recording and rode shotgun on the engineering and mixing. A splendid job all told. - Sing Out Magazine


Kohrs is a talented, distinctive dobroist and singer who’s appeared on a growing list of albums by bluegrass, Americana and mainstream country artists alike. For many musicians, that might be enough, but Kohrs has a bigger role in mind, and his third solo album finds him not only playing and singing lead, but producing, engineering, and writing or co-writing almost all of the material. Though Kohrs is a broad-ranging musician – his last album consisted of vintage honky-tonk – he sticks pretty much to bluegrass on “I’m Torn” with the exception of a classic-sounding acoustic country duet with Dolly Parton on the Carl Jackson and Pam Tillis divorce story “It Looked Good on Paper” and the bittersweet “Fifty Good Years.” Helping out are two different sets of musicians, one consisting of players familiar to anyone keeping an eye on the bluegrass scene, the other of up-and-coming youngsters who one suspects, will be familiar soon, including the superb Patton Wages on banjo and mandolin phenom Aaron Ramsey.

Kohrs has always had a unique melodic sense and edgy tone to his playing, and there’s plenty of that here. Those who have heard him only as a harmony singer will be pleased to find his leads are strong and expressive.

- No Depression


Due to his remarkable instrumental talents, Dobro player Randy Kohrs hasn't lacked for session and sideman gigs; he's built a resume that includes working with the likes of Tom T. Hall, Dolly Parton, Tammy Cochran, Jim Lauderdale, Dierks Bentley and Rhonda Vincent, as well as stints in Continental Divide and the John Cowan Band.
Now he's building a reputation as a solo artist. This is Kohr's fourth solo album, and after a detour in a more straightforwardly country direction last time out, he's returned to bluegrass with another sterling collection that showcases not only his playing, but his strong, distinctive tenor and songwriting skills as well.
For the most part, Kohrs puts the blue in bluegrass here. There are a few diversions (the fire and brimstone of "Hurry Back, Jesus," a historical yarn in "Mountain Stone," to name a couple), but Kohrs recurs to various dimensions of the sad side of love, from the consequences of love triangles ("I'm Torn," "Passion's Price") to divorce ("It Looked Good On Paper," a duet with Dolly Parton that is one of the album's highlights) to love that's gone bad or died ("I See How You Are" and the poignant widow's lament "Fifty Good Years"). It's easy to find bluegrass records that came out with a bigger splash this year; it's hard to find any that were better than this one. - Country Standard Time


If Randy Kohrs continues to dazzle listeners with his singing and writing on albums like "I'm Torn," folks may forget that he's an equally gifted resonator guitarist. But as Kohrs demonstrates on his new CD, he has a knack for writing and interpreting songs that deliver their messages with a passion that stands with the best of contemporary bluegrass.
Mostly collaborating with others, mainly Shaunna Larkin Kohrs and Susan Hill, Kohrs penned nine of the eleven songs on "I'm Torn." Standing out amid an excellent collection of songs are two heartbreak ballads, "That's What I've Learned From Lovin' You" and "It Looked Good On Paper." The latter song, cowritten by Carl Jackson and Pam Tillis, is a plaintive duet with Dolly Parton that hearkens back to some of the great vocal pairings in country music.

Instrumental support is supplied by a varied cast including Scott Vestal, Cody Kilby, Tim Crouch, Josh Williams, and Aaron Ramsey, the young mandolinist whose father, Mike, wrote the other nonKohrs original, "Take Me Back."

Kohrs has a good ear for the bedrock sentiments of bluegrass songs, delivering heartfelt messages in songs such as "Handmade Nails And Homemade Love." His singing drives the songs in the best possible way, conveying the power and emotion of each song.

"I'm Torn" is sure to appeal to listeners looking for a fine new voice and a fresh body of material. HK

- Bluegrass Unlimited


Resophonic guitarist Randy Kohrs is a well-known Nashville session musician who has also released three previous solo album projects. His fourth, "I'm Torn," is an all-bluegrass album that will appeal to fans of all ages. Kohrs wrote or co-wrote all but two of the songs, produced, engineered, and mixed all the music on this disc. With the help of 15 noteworthy musicians including Scott Vestal, Jay Weaver, Cody Kilby, Josh Williams, Tim Crouch, and others, the result is a contemporary gift full of energy and velocity. Carl Jackson and Dolly Parton appear with Kohrs at track three, "It Looked Good On Paper" (written by Jackson with Pam Tillis). Randy has previously toured the world with Dolly as part of her band, The Blueniques.

Randy's participation as a session musician on over 300 albums has emphasized his expert instrumental virtuosity. This project is a showcase of his singularly impressive talents as a songwriter and singer. He sings with a no-holds barred style. He's truly a well-rounded individual who is a deserving member of the
bluegrass elite. The talented Kohrs has found his stylistic footing as a solo contemporary bluegrass artist, and his songs are distinguished by consummate pyrotechnics and drive. Whether your favorite is a hustling song like "Mountain Stone," or a reflective, sad tale of growing old, "Fifty Good Years," Kohrs covers many musical moods and the exercise yields bountiful rewards. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)

- Bluegrass Now - Joe Ross


Randy Kohrs is torn. The sought-after studio musician from Iowa is best known for performing with Dolly Parton and playing one of the the hottest dobros around in bluegrass, country and americana music but Randy is a master on different stringed instruments. He is also a highly original songwriter and a passionate vocalist, examining the entire spectrum of human emotions. Randy is staying true to the traditional bluegrass sound, though not sounding that much anachronistic. In his own words: I wanted to make a CD that would relate to the sixteen year old fans without upsetting the delicate balance that the first and second generation have come to know and love about bluegrass music. Another fresh take on the bluegrass genre - aged but not torn.
- Folkworld


This is about as electric bluegrass as one can get, and Randy has no hesitation whatsoever to carry on the tradition of American music. He’s only complimented even more with the likes of Dolly Parton on the swing ballad “It Looked Good On Paper” which allows these two wonderful vocalists to blend in well together. Coming across sounding a bit like Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs combined, it’s difficult to think this guy hasn’t had radio success in the mainstream format. I wouldn’t hold my breath for Randy to have huge success on the box, even though he deserves it more than most these days. Hey Radio! If you’re reading, take the time to listen to this project and get a clue what true country is all about! If you get this album in your hands, take particular attention to the tearful “Fifty Good Years.” By listening to this song, you want to make it a point to ensure your marriage makes it to the 50 mark on the calendar. Randy has everything it takes to make it to the next step in his career. I just hope that someone gives him the chance to do so!
- Power Source Magazine


I have listened to thousands of albums over the years, and have probably only found a few in which every song is a TREASURE! Randy's songs are wonderful. Wounded Heart with Rhonda brought tears to my eyes and I had to listen to it 3 times before I went on the next cut. Putting the words in the liner notes shows love and respect for the folks who buy this CD, who immediately want to learn the songs and sing and play them. This album is just filled to the brim with wonderfully crafted and moving songs. Last, but not least, Randy has a great voice and sure can pick!!!!
- Bluegrass Jamboree- Marilyn Ryan


Discography

Old Photograph - Rural Rhythm Records
I'm Torn - Lonesome Day Records
Everything That Slides - Left Of Center Records
Now Its Empty - Left Of Center Records
A Crack In My Armour - Junction Records

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Bio

With the release of Old Photograph, his first album for Rural Rhythm Records, multi-instrumentalist Randy Kohrs has also arrived as a first-rate vocalist, songwriter and producer.

Kohrs has long been celebrated for his inventive, mood-setting work as a dobroist (that’s him providing the dramatic framework on Dierks Bentley’s No. 1 hit, “What Was I Thinking.”) But his flashes of instrumental wizardry have often diverted attention from his wider musicianship.

As a vocalist, Kohrs possesses a smooth, intense tenor that mines lyrics for the last ounce of emotion. His songwriting, while broadly classifiable as bluegrass, has the narrative drive of country and the mythic overtones of folk. He co-wrote nine of the 12 songs on Old Photograph. Moreover, he produced the ambitious project, enlisting such admiring peer musicians as Rhonda and Darrin Vincent, Scott Vestal, Don Rigsby, Jim Hurst and two-time Grammy winner Carl Jackson.

Growing up on a farm in the rural town of New Virginia, Iowa, Kohrs was raised like every other kid in the area, getting up early to feed the animals before school and performing various other chores until the sun went down. At the age of eight, however, it became clear that he was not destined to spend his life on a farm when his Uncle Jack brought over an acoustic guitar, showed him a few techniques and promptly enchanted the eager youngster.

Having been taught always to pay his own way, Kohrs bought the guitar from his uncle for about $100. Around the age of 10, he became more fascinated with his Uncle Jack’s main instrument, the resophonic guitar, or dobro, and resolved to learn to play that, too. So, in his typically industrious style, he raised and sold a feeder calf within the year to purchase his first dobro.

In two practice-packed years, Kohrs became accomplished enough to begin playing full-time with the Missouri-based band, Possum Trot. He remained with them for 10 years. At 15, he began playing country music with a local band, as well, a band he later fronted in and around Des Moines. During this time, he had been developing his uniquely soulful and powerful tenor voice, along with his repertoire of other instruments, including electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, and bass.

Kohrs’ popularity continued to grow throughout the Midwest, and soon he realized that the next logical move was to Nashville. In 1994—shortly after the passing of his father—the grieving, yet hopeful, young artist loaded up a moving truck and headed to Music City. e

In three short weeks, Kohrs found himself playing an incredibly grueling schedule at a club on Nashville’s fabled Lower Broadway called Maggie Magee’s (now the Nashville Crossroads). To supplement the minuscule income that gig yielded, he did auto detailing and light collision work from his home.

In 1995, during one of his nightly solo gigs, Kohrs so impressed Hank Williams III that he hired him on the spot for his own band. On his nights off, Kohrs continued to dazzle the folks on Lower Broad. When the legendary Tom T. Hall decided he needed a multi-instrumentalist for the band he was forming, he dispatched his personal assistant to check out this newcomer who was creating such a buzz. A week later, Kohrs was off on his first major tour with “The Storyteller,” a circuit that took him to Australia for a month.

In the spring of 1997, Hall retired from the road and Kohrs found himself back on Lower Broad. That summer, bluegrass stalwart David Parmley went to hear Kohrs play, and at 7 o’clock the next morning, he was on a bus headed to Canada as a member of Continental Divide. For the next two years, he sang tenor and occasional lead and played dobro with the band. He recorded on the album Feel Good Day, which made it to the Top 5 on the bluegrass charts and the Top 20 on the Americana charts.

Subsequently, Kohrs toured with Holly Dunn for two years and performed regularly with her on her Grand Ole Opry appearances. In late 2000, John Cowan offered Kohrs a gig playing dobro and singing tenor, a task few people in this world have the voice to do. Yet, he performed exquisitely and can be heard on Cowan’s Always Take Me Back.

While grateful to be working with so many great acts, it had always been Kohrs’ dream to have a solo career. In 2001, he released his debut solo album, A Crack In My Armour, on Junction Records. Containing several original songs, it earned him new respect among the Nashville songwriting community and acclaim within the larger music industry. He followed it with a traditional country album, Now It’s Empty, on his own label, Left Of Center Records.

In 2003, Kohrs accepted a gig with the unsinkable Dolly Parton, singing and playing dobro in her band, the Blueniques for the next two years. In addition to playing on three of Parton’s CDs, he also performed as her opening act. In 2004, Parton recorded a duet with him, “It Looked Good On Paper,” for his third album, I’m To