Rebel Records CD-1854
The past few years have seen the passing of many of the first generation and the retirement of many of the second-generation bluegrass artists. The music they made formed the foundation for the music we have today. Since change is the only constant, the old recordings serve as an anchor for our music as it finds its way through time. This project at its core carries the same soul, pulse, and power of those first generation performers. What has changed is the degree of polish and sonic quality found in the state-of-the-art studio. Mullins and Sisk know the old sound firsthand and have lived with the music long enough to bring it up to date without losing the beauty found in the original recordings. They also bring a regard for the modern audience.
Dave Freeman and the folks at Rebel Records who put this project together wisely plucked the best sideman for this project. Jason Carter, a long-time student of the traditional art of bluegrass fiddling brings his A-game, providing rich leads and fills, overdubbing for good end on “Brand New Shoes.” Jessie Brock’s mandolin is always appropriate and his choice of licks get to the core without being overdone. Marshall Wilborn nails the bass line with his trademark precision. Joe Mullins’ banjo is at its satisfying best. His command of the instrument is textbook, and his tone and drive propel the music. Junior Sisk nails the guitar lead on “Single Girl, Married Girl” so well it makes one think he might be a closet member of the Shuffler family. Rob Ickes’ resonator guitar is as always spot-on as part of the ensemble sound on “No Doubt About It.”
The lead and duet singing is as amazing as you would expect throughout the project. On “I’ll Drink No More Wine,” Mike Terry nails the baritone, resulting in a topnotch trio. Then Billy Hawks, the fine fiddler in Sisk’s band, adds the rich bass vocal for a great quartet on “I’m So Happy.” The singing on this project is as good as it gets.
The songs touch a lot of bases, and they are not just well-worn evergreens. Mac Wiseman, the Country Gentlemen, Jimmy Martin, the Stanley Brothers, Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Reno & Smiley, the Osborne Brothers, Doc Watson, J.D. Crowe and Doyle Lawson, Jim & Jesse, Flatt & Scruggs, and Bill Monroe are all represented here. This effort by Mullins, Sisk, and company successfully captures the essence of each piece, enough so to make one remember the original with such emotion and quiet joy to make you feel you had actually been there. Like the T-shirt says: “I might be old, but I got to see all the cool bands.” (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)RCB