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Posted October 1, 2010
Tried, true and tested bluegrass hits
Playing Time – 65:57 -- At one time, the words “bluegrass” and “hit” would be contradictory. However, in more recent times with the great success and growth of the genre, bluegrass music can claim to have many top songs that are garnering significant radio airplay. Every song on this Rounder Records compilation placed in the Top Ten of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine’s National Bluegrass Survey. So this sampler gives us a generous 66 minutes of tried, true and tested bluegrass. The chart is based on feedback from radio DJs and programmers so people that know the music have weighed in to name these songs as among the best of the best contemporary bluegrass dating from 1985-2005. Cuts come from a number of stalwarts such as Doyle Lawson, The Cox Family, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Tony Rice, Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, J.D. Crowe, and Claire Lynch. Other emerging acts like Blue Highway, Longview, Alecia Nugent, Open Road and The Grascals are more recently on the scene, but no less impressive with their hits. It’s impressive to see women playing such a prominent role among these hits. Hits are also drawn from highly-acclaimed solo releases Rob Ickes, Dan Tyminski, and Stuart Duncan. Unfortunately, a few of these groups who had hits (Johnson Mountain Boys, Weary Heart, Rambler’s Choice) are no longer together. The 20-page CD booklet offers musician credits, a short summary about each group, and Rounder discography for further exploration. “Bluegrass Hits” is a wonderful set from a leading label in the genre. It also makes a strong statement about where bluegrass music is headed. Listen to this album in context of what has gone before. I was surprised to hear the banjo and fiddle relegated to minor roles in some of the arrangements. In “Me and John and Paul,” (IBMA’s 2005 Song of the Year) there are percussion and pedal steel in the mix. Compared to the seminal works of bluegrass’ founders, we hear songs with slower tempos and smooth, polished Nashville-style vocals. The resonator guitar also appears to be playing a more and more prominent role in the genre’s current sound. “Bluegrass Hits” closes with the earliest track recorded, a 1988 version of the traditional “Dream of a Miner’s Child” from the Johnson Mountain Boys. It’s an interesting way to close this album – on a note that recognizes the spirit and significance of classic bluegrass from a band, now defunct, that never compromised their traditional sound. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.