BANJO PLAYER’S BLUES
Remember the first time you heard bluegrass? The thrill in that banjo sound? The plaintiff vocals over the rapid paced music? The searing edge of the fiddle as it glides in and out of the proceedings and the cut of that mandolin as it jumped to the fore in that powerful sound? Do you remember that thrill? Well, here it is again. The rhythms are true bluegrass. This music does not want to be anything else. No outside influences from all that has transpired in the last seventy years. This is bluegrass like it was in the golden era of the 1950s and ’60s.
Jeremy Stephens and Kurt Stephenson can play their banjos in great harmony and then jump on guitar when needed. Daniel Amick holds down the mandolin slot until he slides over to guitar. Vickie Vaughn not only sings like an angel, her bass playing is spot-on. Corrina Rose Logston, Stephens’ wife, is a force of nature on the fiddle, as one listen to her version of “Turkey In The Straw” confirms. The whole band sings and does so with power that comes from a well of soul. These guys are Christians and let you know it. They sing some of the best gospel one is apt to hear these days. The polyphony of “His Charming Love” is extremely effective. “Dear God” and “Got A Little Light” capture more of the depth and range in this realm.
One warhorse shows up here, Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith’s “Feuding Banjos.” This blazing example of instrumental prowess will send you back to the original 1955 recording that can be found online to compare. Those guys were hot, but these guys are hotter. It will take several concentrated listenings to discern just what they are doing on this cut. Throughout this project, the double banjos really make a powerful statement.
Jesse McReynolds, one of their heroes, joins them on “Tears Of Regret,” a long lost tract by the McReynolds brothers. Even at his advanced age, McReynolds still sounds great. This review could be much longer, but suffice it to say, this is the best pure bluegrass album to come along since the last one by this band. (www.rebelrecords.com)RCB
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