Back in blue

Home Brew (Copper Creek)
Gary Brewer

By Bob Mitchell

"GB" not only stands for Gary Brewer, it also stands for good bluegrass. But you don't have to take my word for it. In the June issue of Bluegrass Now, Irk James, of KGLT-FM in Bozeman, Montana, selected the opening track, "Elvis on Velvet, Monroe on Grass" as the No. 1 song in the country. Meanwhile, the national bluegrass survey in the June issue of Bluegrass Unlimited listed the cut as No. 13, and by July the song moved to No. 12.

Brewer has always been acknowledged as an outstanding guitarist and this project contains plenty of famous Brewers picking. Accompanied only by his guitar, Gary sings a powerful gospel tune called "God Was There." Again, don't just take my word for it. The July issue of Bluegrass Now - in the "DJ Hot Picks" -- lists this track as top tune in the country, at least according to David Blakney, who jockeys for CJAM-FM, way up in Windsor, Canada.

But enough with the testimonials. Listening to Home Brew is like attending a Kentucky Rambler concert because it has a nice mix of old time and traditional bluegrass. You even get a cameo appearance from Jim Brewer (Gary's dad) as he lays out an energetic "Little Liza Jane."

But if it's bluegrass guitar the younger Brewer is known for, I would be remiss not to mention the only instrumental track on the recording, in which Brewer and his guitar provide a bright, hard-driving tribute to his long time friend, Larry Sparks. The solo, "Lonesome Guitar," is reminiscent of Brewer's work on an earlier instrumental project with Bill Monroe, which was titled "Guitar." (Is it any wonder the license plate on his automobile proclaims the word "Guitar"?)

Brewer's picking also shines especially bright on a lighthearted "Old Dan Tucker," a well crafted "Pastures of Plenty," and a vigorous "Chattanooga Dog." Throughout the release, Brewer gets fine support from Blake Hopper (banjo), Charles Duffey (harmony vocals and fiddle) and Wade Butler (harmony vocals and bass fiddle). The Ramblers sound especially good on "Sea Of Heartbreak" and "I Haven't Seen Mary In Years."

Two other standouts are a poignant waltz, "I Haven't Seen Mary In Years," and a heartfelt cover of Woody Guthrie's "Pastures Of Plenty." Notably, three selections come from the prolific pens of Tom T. and Dixie Hall: the whimsical title cut, a grassy "Chattanooga Dog," and the dark "Molly and Mildred." Unlike the characters in another dark track in which a woman is murdered ("Poor Ellen Smith"), "Molly and Mildred" even the score. Two women who are victims of domestic violence mysteriously resolve their problem when their husbands disappear and the well is filled in. In addition to contributing songs for this project, Tom T. Hall also recorded two of the tracks in his Tennessee studio. Those sessions included strong guest appearances from Rob Ickes on dobro, Terry Eldridge on harmony vocals, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and Larry Beasley on banjo.

All in all, Brewer continues to show why he's considered one of Kentucky's finest modern bluegrass talents. Find out more about Brewer and his new release at www.coppercreekreccom.