A First-Rate Compilation

Lonesome Pine (Rebel)

Blue Highway

By Bob Mitchell

Anyone who is familiar with my reviews knows I am a sucker for first-rate compilations of traditional bluegrass with historical significance. Although not all anthologies are equal, every bluegrass fan recognizes the fact that the Rebel vaults preserve music from some of the industry's finest artists.

Lonesome Pine is yet another outstanding release containing 13 tracks featured on Blue Highway's three previous releases: It's a Long Road (1995), Wind to the West (1996) and Midnight Storm (1998). Long Road earned the group IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year and Album of the year awards. Blue Highway's virtuoso playing and superb singing also garnered a Grammy nomination and a Dove Award. Their soulful sound has clearly established them as one of the most important bands to emerge in the 1990s.

For more than ten years Blue Highway's makeup has remained essentially unchanged and this recording captures some of their most memorable and satisfying songs. Tim Stafford's driving guitar and vocals are consistently rewarding but no more so than on "Last Dollar Blues." Jason Burleson's banjo work is solid and inventive especially on "In The Gravel Yard." Wayne Taylor's acoustic bass provides a rock solid foundation and his lead vocals are perceptive. I especially enjoyed his vocals on the poignant "He Walked All The Way Home" and "Before The Cold Wind Blows." Shawn Lane's phenomenal mandolin and vocals permeate every track.

One major highlight includes "In The Gravel Yard," which introduced Lane's high lead on the verse and his tenor on the chorus, a sound that would become one of the group's vocal trademarks. Rob Ickes's masterful Dobro work is also invariably evident. One listen to this project will clarify why he is a seven-time winner of the IBMA Dobro player of the year award. Other highlights include the title track, "Cold Frosty Morn," which showcases only a fiddle and banjo and the spine-tingling harmonies on "Between The Rows,""Some Day" and "Two Coats."

On a five-point scale of historic excellence, this release merits a five.

For more information, check out www.rebelrecords.com.