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It's Getting Better All The Time (Koch Records)
Ronnie Bowman

By Bob Mitchell

It's Getting Better All the Time is Ronnie Bowman's first release for Koch Records. It is also his fourth solo project and an excellent showcase for one of one of the best voices in Bluegrass. After all, he was Male Vocalist of The Year in 1995, '98 and '99.

Additionally, seven songs on the disc are co-written by Bowman including an insightful "I'm On My Way Back Home," and two moving love songs, "Till Me Meet Again," and "Perfect Love." Other highlights include hard driving bluegrass covers of the Webb Pierce classic "Walking The Dog," and Larry Rice's "Four Wheel Drive."

Bowman's band is known as the "The Committee" and the chairman of the board is Wyatt Rice on guitar. His work is consistently solid and tasteful but never more so than on his brother's composition, "Four Wheel Drive." Jeremy Garrett's fiddle also makes a significant contribution to each track but I especially enjoyed his bow work on "Walking The Dog." Dobro player Andy Hall rounds out the band and he's at his best on another Bowman original, "The Mountain." Making guest appearances on the album are a host of respected musicians including Dan Tyminski, Adam Steffey, Rob and Ronnie McCoury and Don Wayne Reno.

The liner notes dedicate the CD to the celebration of the life of Bowman's grandmother, Mary Belle Bowman. And, if you listen carefully, there is a pleasant surprise on this recording. Eleven tracks are listed on the tray card, but after the last note of the last listed song fades away there is 70 seconds of blank space followed by a four-minute song featuring Bowman and his guitar. It is an untitled, emotional and loving tribute to his grandmother Mary Belle.

By my standards, Bowman has been leaning toward country-pop sounds for the past several years, but this release has more bluegrass soul. There are, however, two exceptions and neither track should be included on a product marketed as bluegrass. The title track is pure pop with soft piano and a lush string section (it was actually a hit once upon a time for country duo Brooks & Dunn). The other uses an electric guitar, which is not exactly a classic bluegrass staple.

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