All Star Bluegrass Celebration

Bluegrass Fans, Look No Further

All Star Bluegrass Celebration (Likona Vision, Inc/Rainmaker Productions)
Multiple Artists

By Bob Mitchell

I love the electricity generated by live performances recorded in front of an audience and believe me, there is a lot of electricity on this project. "Celebration" is a joyous session featuring some of the industry's biggest names. Originally taped from the stage of the Ryman Auditorium for PBS and hosted by Ricky Skaggs, the opening track is a blistering "Shady Grove" from Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (2004 IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year). Then, Vince Gill teams up with Del McCoury (2004 IBMA Entertainer of The Year) and his band for the time-honored gospel number "Crying Holy Unto The Lord." The project has so many highlights there is not enough print space for an adequate review, but some artists and tracks must be mentioned. Earl Scruggs' contributions on "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," "Lonesome Ruben," and "Rawhide" are astronomical. Ralph Stanley's high lonesome a capella "O Death" and his duet with Patty Loveless on the tragic "Pretty Polly" is eloquent. Loveless also teams up with Skaggs for a powerful "Daniel Prayed" and with Travis Tritt and Skaggs for their tribute to Bill Monroe with a hard driving arrangement of "Uncle Pen." In a nod to the Bluegrass' appeal to musicians of every genre, Skaggs invites Bruce Hornsby to pick some hot bluegrass piano on "Darlin' Corey." Other featured artists are Allison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas and Nickel Creek.

Celebration is also being released as a DVD. It contains the same musical selections as the CD but the DVD contains added advantages: Seeing incredible performances from a happy group of musicians who constantly exhibit the pure joy that comes from playing this infectious music; going back stage for conversations with Del McCoury and Vince Gill as they talk about families who make music together and another with Patty Loveless as she talks about what is like to sing with Ralph Stanley; and viewing separate biographies of Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley (with vintage film clips).

This release is a hum-dinger. You might want to get a CD for auto use and a DVD for home use. And it will make a great Christmas gift for the bluegrass fan on your list.

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