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The Future is Now

Lonesome Highway (Pinecastle)

Josh Williams

By Bob Mitchell

During 1993, while walking around at of a Bluegrass festival, my ears perked up. I followed the sound to a small tent, entered, sat on a bale of hay and listened to an ensemble that called itself the Bluegrass Youth All Stars. A skinny kid with a mandolin and a chubby fellow with a fiddle were blowing everyone away. I told a friend, "There is the future of the music we love!"

How prophetic that statement turned out to be. The skinny kid, Josh Williams, is now working with Rhonda Vincent (IBMA Female Vocalist of The Year) and is releasing his second recording with a major label. The other fellow, Michael Cleveland, has been twice named IBMA fiddler of the year.

Williams won banjo, guitar and mandolin championships in five states before joining the renowned group Special Consensus in 1999. He is an accomplished young man who provides lead vocals, harmony vocals, killer mandolin chops and solos and outstanding guitar work (lead, rhythm and finger style). He does it all and he does it well beyond the capabilities of most 23-year-olds.

As with his 2001 project, Now That You're Gone, Williams is assisted by a bevy of talented musicians: Once again, the rock solid bass of Missy Raines provides a foundation for every track. (Raines is a four-time winner of the IBMA bassist of the year.) The banjo chair is filled by JD Crowe (newest member of the Bluegrass Hall of Honor), Kristin Scott Benson, Sammy Shelor (nominated as IBMA banjo player of the year) and Greg Cahill. Jim Hurst, IBMA guitarist of the year, shows up on four tracks and he is phenomenal on "All Of You." Ron Stewart (IBMA fiddle player of the year) and Audrey Haynie (nominated as IBMA fiddler of the year) provide some remarkable bow work. Other musicians include Chris Thile (IBMA mandolin player of the year), Randy Kohrs, David Parmley, Don Rigsby, Dwight McCall and Otis Dillon.

Williams' presence is compelling and authoritative. His deep rich voice captures the intended emotion of every song. His style lays it on the line with straight-ahead, no-nonsense bluegrass. Some of my favorite tracks include another new tune from Dixie and Tom T. Hall, "Killer On The Loose;" Ron Stewart's gospel number, "Will You Meet Me Over There;" and William's scorching original instrumental, "Golden Pond Getaway."

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. (Note: This is another disc with super-serious photography. Smile, Josh!)