by Craig Marshall
If you love bluegrass instrumentals, treat yourself to a great and inexpensive gift from your local Dollar Tree store. Don’t be fooled by the cardboard jewel case for the album Smokey Mountain Memories, thinking it might be amateurs. The group un-named) is clearly composed of topflight performers on banjo, guitar, base, and mandolin. You get 10 tunes, some familiar standards and some not heard often. There are two vocal numbers, one forgettable, the other not bad. You won’t find the fiddles and flutes claimed on the wrapper, but this is still a great CD, with some wizard playin’ especially in “Billy in the Lowground” and “Cherokee Shuffle.”
If you like your holiday music in a bluegrass vein, A Bluegrass Christmas is another instrumental CD at the Dollar Store, with 10 familiar standard holiday tunes, all of them with good to great performances. However, track #8 is completely unrecognizable to me. Halfway through the number I had to look at the cover to see that it is called “Angels We Have Heard On High.” Maybe it should be angels we have heard while on a high! But you be the judge, and 9 out of 10 ain’t bad. I especially liked “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” which, after a slow intro, is played fast and generates the real feeling of joy of the holidays. The cover notes the performers as The Clarke Family and The Smokey Mountain Band. And there’s a fiddle in this one!
Look for the CD in the seasonal holiday section, with other holiday CDs, of which I bought 5 instrumentals. Merry Christmas to me!