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Brand New Strings

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Keeping bluegrass alive and kicking

    It's a tricky balance to keep a traditional form from turning into a dormant shelf decoration. On the one hand, you need to keep to the tradition's roots, but on the other, you can't follow your forbearer's paths so closely that you do nothing more than wear ruts into the ground. Skaggs continues to successfully navigate this skyline path by matching top-notch instrumental skills and elements of traditional bluegrass arrangements with newly penned songs and inflections that expand upon the foundation laid down by Monroe, Stanley and others. ¶ Skaggs' latest release actively seeks out contemporary material from some of country music's finest writers, including Guy Clark, Shawn Camp and Skaggs himself. At their heart, these songs share a thematic sensibility with the bluegrass classics, and when given over to Kentucky Thunder's traditional fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin - not to mention the tight harmonies of Skaggs, Paul Brewster, Darren Vincent, and Rebecca Lynn Howard - the result is truly 21st century bluegrass. ¶ These studio productions don't generate the high-voltage band interplay found on the live performances like 2003's "Live at the Charleston Music Hall," though a few spark up some hot picking, such as Keith Sewell's title track, and several instrumentals penned by Skaggs. The latter's vocals are especially moving a pair of Shawn Lane tunes, "Why Did I Wait So Long?" and "If I Had it All Again To Do." No doubt the newer tunes waxed here will mix nicely with the classics as the band takes them out on the road.

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