Some folks may remember Tim Smith when he fiddled with the Bluegrass Cardinals or as a Blue Grass Boy or with any number of major bands during his lifetime filled with fiddle music. Here, he tackles a diverse program of music from bluegrass, at which he excels. Wayne Benson, Eric Ellis, Jeff Huffman, and Zachary McLamb make up the basic band on mandolin, banjo, guitar and bass respectively. Their playing is all one would expect on a top-flight bluegrass recording. Eric Ellis plays some insightful banjo. Huffman’s guitar is spot on, and Benson’s tone and note choice are impeccable.
The tunes are well chosen to avoid the overplayed and include “Milk Cow Blues,” a nod to western swing with a some sleazy slide guitar from David Holt and a heartfelt vocal by Will McIntyre. Smith displays his take on old-time with “Whiskey Before Breakfast” featuring David Holt on clawhammer banjo. The late fiddle master Art Stamper once claimed that a fiddle album is not complete without a train song. Here we have “Broadway Limited,” featuring David Guthrie on vocal and Clyde Mattocks on resonator guitar.
Smith shows off his considerable chops on his original tunes. They are demanding pieces. He tackles bluegrass fiddle standards such as “Cattle In The Cane” and “Ashland Breakdown” with the confidence of an artist who is at ease with his work. There is more than a subtle nod to the late Mr. Baker in his rendition “Ashland Breakdown.” Benson turns in an especially nice reading of that tune as well. His swinging reading of “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” features more than a touch of that good old New Orleans jazz done string band style.
This is one of the most satisfying fiddle recordings to come along in a while. It is highly recommended to all fans of good fiddle music. There a wide variety of well-played tunes that make this a highly listenable project. (TRS Records, 384 Princeton Square Ct., Kernersville, NC 27284, www.fiddlertimsmith.com.)RCB