Michael Barnett is a fiddler who, while young, has done a lot. He’s a prodigy, more or less, becoming a sought after teacher and session musician at a very young age. He was a member of the David Grisman Sextet, and otherwise has turned the ear of a who’s who of acoustic music. The album is packed with some of them, including Aoife O’Donovan, David Grier, Sarah Jarosz, Tim O’Brien, Noam Pikelny, Maeve Gilchrist, Chris Eldridge … anyway, there is enough talent here to make your head spin.
One of the great things about bluegrass is that it has a memory. People who played then are celebrated now, and the music that was made then is still relevant now. And people like Larry Sparks provide some proof of that. His first real gig was playing guitar for Ralph Stanley in 1966 after the passing of Carter. Just think of that. The Stanley Brothers are in the first generation of bluegrass, and to some extent formed what bluegrass is today. And Larry Sparks was there, more or less, and here he is, fifty years later, still doing it, and still turning ears.
Michael Cleveland is an absolute delight, and if you have any cause to doubt it, then have a listen to “Jack O Diamonds” from his latest release, On Down the Line. It’s the standard old-time fiddle tune, though he fills it with nods, winks, chuckles, in-jokes, and punch lines. Yes, he’s a master of the instrument, but that’s not what Cleveland is about. He’s about having a lot of fun, and he does, and he lets us have a lot of fun too.
I am not one of those people who is ultra-nostalgic for the past. The past was hard, and I tend to see progress as time goes by.
However, there are a few things about the early sixties that do make me nostalgic – one is the role of radio and another is old-time harmony. Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys Radio Shows perfectly satisfies both of these nostalgias.
Dave Adkins is one of the new and upcoming voices of bluegrass... one of those voices that stand out out from the crowd, once heard you won't forget who you're listening to. This is not the high-lonesome-sound, this is grit and cheap whiskey, bar rooms, jails, and of course both love and heartbreak. Adkins has attracted a lot of attention across the bluegrass community, including a SPBGMA Male Vocalist of the year nomination.