Bluegrass Number 1's
Collecting 18 chart-topping tunes culled from Bluegrass Unlimited magazine's radio charts, Bluegrass Number 1's shows both the persistence of tradition in contemporary bluegrass and the subtle infusions of jet-age propulsion over the past couple of decades. And with almost half of the cuts coming from female artists, the disc underscores the distaff side's energizing contributions -- Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent, Lynn Morris, and Laurie Lewis are all powerfully represented with singular, moving performances. Vincent pays a high-lonesome tribute to the master, Bill Monroe, on the driving, gospel-tinged "Is the Grass Any Bluer," and Lewis shines on "Who Will Watch the Home Place," a heart-stopping reflection on home and hearth. Gender issues aside, this survey offers stirring music from start to finish, with the artists displaying technical savvy to burn, as well as an emotional investment in the material that is rarely encountered with mainstream fare in other genres. James King brings up the traditional side in his deliberate, low-key reading of the ballad "Bed by the Window," and the Del McCoury Band add some edge to that tradition with their bristling classic "The Cold Hard Facts." The visionary J. D. Crowe & the New South light a path from the past to the present with a spirited testimonial of abiding love, "Waiting for You," replete with close three-part harmonizing and deft, economical instrumental asides. A second, bonus disc further emphasizes the vitality of contemporary bluegrass with eight cuts from young lions including Tom Adams & Michael Cleveland, Ginny Harmer, Ron Block, Open Road, and Rob Ickes. As a progress report, Bluegrass Number 1's shows the past and the present in perfect alignment and highlights the unlimited potential for a bountiful future.