One final growl

The Big Tiger Roars Again (Part 2) (OMS Records)

Benny Martin

By Bob Mitchell

In the early 1950s, Benny Martin, a.k.a. The Big Tiger, did not just play the fiddle - he roared. His imaginative exuberance set musical standards that are still in place today. When he joined forces with Flatt and Scruggs, the sounds of bluegrass soared. His zesty phrasing in classics such as "Dear Old Dixie" and "Flint Hill Special" remain a joy for the ear.

This project oozes with love for Martin and his magic fiddle. In these 1997 recordings, Benny is joined By Ricky Skaggs, The Reno Brothers, Ronnie McCoury, Allison Krauss, Josh Graves, Terry Eldridge, John Hartford, Crystal Gayle and half a dozen other luminaries.

All eleven tracks were penned or co-penned by Martin. But, alas, the CD is a mixed blessing, because Martin's once robust and unbridled energy was compromised by his age and illness. In one ear, you hear the original roaring Tiger, while the other ear hears the Tiger's voice dimming. Nevertheless, Martin and his friends audibly have a ball. It can be heard in the chatter between cuts and in the loving presentation of each selection. All in all, this CD will make you smile and feel good. Musical highlights include a grassy instrumental, "Two O'Clock," and a country sounding "Slim Chance."

Martin died in March 2001 due to congestive heart failure. But, thanks to this release, the Big Tiger is still among us.