The picture on the front of this disc is of an attractive woman in a cotton dress, strolling down a country lane (in heels!), carrying a banjo. So, I’ll admit to being a little skeptical before ever hearing these Bluegrass Number One Hits by a variety of established bluegrass artists.

Not being one to judge an album by its cover-- and giving the good folk of Rounder Records the benefit of the doubt for their continued advancement of bluegrass and acoustic music--I gave a listen and was impressed by the variety and quality of the tracks presented.

It was Thursday, July 15th 2010 at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, N.Y. when, during their set, the sound system died on the Josh Williams Band. Not feedback: not volume issues: it just quit. Silence.

What happened next says a great deal about both bluegrass music and the professionalism of this band. They approached the audience - who gathered around in anticipation - and kept right on playing.

Needless to say, the crowd loved it and, after sound was restored, the band returned to the stage to complete a great set.

I had the pleasure of meeting Marty Stuart and his band at the Strawberry Park Bluegrass Festival in Preston CT in June of this year. He and his band's personalities are as great as their music. This CD has everything for the Marty Stuart fans.

The title song “Ghost Train” along with “Branded,” “Little Heart Breaker,” and “Bridge Washed Out” are all great singing and Marty picking.

To me, it's hardly surprising that a Senator from West Virginia would release a fiddle album; politicians will do most anything to get noticed. Rather, what's surprising to me after several hour in my CD player is that this is an interesting and fun fiddle album- unlike most of what emerges from the average Senator, this album bears repeated hearings. The story is pretty simple: Alan Jabbour, the noted director of the American Folklife Center, had recorded Byrd for the Library of Congress Archives, and thought he was good enough to make an album. Doyle Lawson (on guitar) and two other musicians associated with the Country Gentleman backed up the Senator and the album was eventually made in his Senate offices, where Byrd felt most comfortable- making this, it seems, the only commercial musical album ever recorded in the US Capitol.

Earlier this summer, on a beautiful evening at the Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival, Jesse McReynolds and his band did a stunning cover of the Grateful Dead's “Black Muddy River,” and announced the CD would be out in October. I vowed to be the first in line...and happily the CD finally arrived.

The CD is Jessy McReynolds and Friends (with David Nelson & Stu Allen) - Songs of the Grateful Dead - A Tribute to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. The band is Jesse McReynolds on mandolin and mandolobro, David Nelson (New Riders of the Purple Sage) on electric guitar, Stu Allen on electric and acoustic guitars, Sandy Rothman on banjo, Steve Thomas on fiddle, acoustic guitar, and keyboards, Tommy White on steel guitar, Shawn Apple on drums, Pat McErney on drums, Randy Brown on bass, Tony Wray on acoustic guitar, David Ferguson on bass, and Garret and Amanda McReynolds on harmony vocals.

Bluegrass music has come a long way since Bill Monroe and his brothers decided to form a band. Today we’re presented with an abundance of artists who cite Bluegrass and its pioneers as influences without necessarily having much in common with, for example, the early Blue Grass Boys sound. It follows, then, that the bands Bluegrass aficionados often revere the most, are those considered ‘authentic’ and calling a band’s sound ‘traditional’ is high praise indeed. Big Country Bluegrass strive for, and often attain, this sound on their latest album The Boys In Hats And Ties.


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