CD Review: Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album by Joe Diffie

Joe Diffie is remembered as a country artist with hits such as “Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox,” “John Deere Green,” “Honky Tonk Attitude” and his first hit in 1990, the Americana song, “Home.” Joe Diffie’s twelve #1’s, twenty top 10’s and four gold and platinum albums establish him as a prolific hit maker. Before his country hit streak, Joe toured bluegrass venues with his band Special Edition.

Now, his latest Rounder CD, Homecoming, relives his earlier bluegrass days. Joining Joe are bluegrass A-listers The Grascals, Rhonda Vincent, Bradley Walker, and Alecia Nugent. He also enlisted a top-notch band that includes dobro giant Rob Ickes, Aubrey Haynie, Mike Compton, Bryan Sutton, Mark Fain and Charlie Cushman.

This CD could be subtitled Joe Diffie And Rob Ickes Do Bluegrass. Rob’s dobro seems to take up as much airspace as Joe’s voice. Fans of Rob Ickes will love all the fills (some seem to creep too much into the vocals) as well as his solos. His dobro has an unprocessed hard-edge sound where Joe’s great voice is sometimes over processed with chorus effects. 

With all the bluegrass musicians on this CD there is a lot of country feel in some arrangements. The cold calculating “Til Death” covers the same ground, but without the excitement, as Lyle Lovitt’s “LA County.” “Til Death” would play as well on a country station as in a bluegrass venue. Likewise, “Route 5 Box 109” sounds more country than bluegrass. Other cuts that might find themselves on a country playlist are “Fit For A King,” “Free And Easy” and “Rainin’ On Her Rubber Dolly” but “Rainin’…” is touted in the liner notes as a “soon to be bluegrass classic” and is backed up by The Grascals. “Hard to Handle” sounds like something Jerry Reed, if he were alive today, might have done with its fast scrambling lyrics.

“‘Til Death”

“Tennessee Tea”

A nice gospel cut, “I Know How It Feels” was written by Larry Cordle.

Lonesome and Dry As A Bone” has got that high lonesome Monroe sound and plenty of Rob Ickes to prove the point. “Somehow Tonight” was written by Flatt and Scruggs. “Tennessee Tea” is a high-powered bluegrass charger.

In the end Homecoming makes me want to listen to country Joe Diffie again. Where is that “Honky Tonk Attitude” when I need it?

Rounder Records

Doug Mathewson

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