NEW KENTUCKY COLONELS, LIVE IN SWEDEN 1973
Roland White Music
First released on LP and then reissued as a CD by Rounder Records, the original version of Live In Sweden set the bar as one of the finest live bluegrass recordings ever issued. Capturing Clarence and Roland White, backed by their brother Eric and Alan Munde on banjo, this direct tape recording was simply too good not to release, despite its less than studio-level quality. I know I must have listened to the LP and then the CD more than 500 times, and I hear new delights with every spin of the disc.
That’s why this release from Roland and his wife Diane Bouska is such an important moment in the history of the legendary Kentucky Colonels and their impermeable impression on bluegrass music. Recorded during a two-night gig in Stockholm only months before Clarence’s tragic death at the hands of a drunk driver, Live In Sweden showcases one of bluegrass music’s most innovative and influential bands at the absolute peak of their creative powers. “In my opinion, this is the best of Clarence’s playing on record,” says Roland. “I know it was the best music I ever made.”
The original release included just 14 tunes from the bands performances. Here, Roland and Diane have carefully curated the entire tape to add 12 more tunes. These tracks, as Roland notes, highlight Clarence’s always-brilliant flatpicking just as he had departed his stint playing electric guitar with The Byrds. “John Henry,” “Mocking Banjo,” “Old Joe Clark,” and others give those of us who believe Clarence is the greatest bluegrass guitarist of all time amazing new tracks to ponder and analyze. Again and again, Clarence takes his playing to the highest levels, more than matching Roland and Alan note for note and taking flatpicking guitar to a level unheard of in its day.
Paired with another recent release of the same band on its 1973 European tour with Herb Pedersen on banjo, this new release gives fans of The Colonels an inside look at what made this band so unique and legendary. Roland, perhaps the least appreciated innovator in bluegrass mandolin history, fills his solos with fire and passion. And the instinctive vocal interplay between Roland and Clarence shows not only what a great vocalist Roland has always been, it showcases younger brother Clarence truly coming into his own as a lead singer for the band on tunes like “Take A Whiff” and “Last Thing On My Mind.”
It would have been all too easy for time to have forgotten The Colonels, diminishing their influence and contemporary relevance. But fortunately, we have new releases like Live In Sweden 1973 to remind us that this band pioneered so many of the sounds and thrilling solos that helped shape bluegrass music as we love it today. (www.rolandwhite.com)DJM