Three at Bats, Three Home Runs

Bluegrass Holiday (Rebel)
J.D. Crowe
Different Roads (Rebel)
The Seldom Scene
Mountain Preacher's Child (Rebel)
Ralph Stanley

By Bob Mitchell

Rebel Records has done it again: The door to the vaults has opened and pure bluegrass gold is tumbling out. It does not get any better than these three simultaneous CD re-issues of traditional bluegrass. Each band brings something special to the table to form an coherent and thoroughly enjoyable music presentation. In addition, each historical project stands alone and is perfectly suited for your collection.

Bluegrass Holiday: Crowe's first recording (1969) captures high-powered picking from an all-star lineup that includes Red Allen (guitar and vocals), Doyle Lawson (mandolin and vocals) and Bobby Sloane (bass). Originally intended as a souvenir from the legendary performances at the Lexington Kentucky Holiday Inn (only 90 minutes down the road), this recording also contains four rare bonus tracks from King Bluegrass Records (previously available only on 45 rpm). A short list of highlights includes a barn-burning signature track, "Train 45," the heartbreaking "Little Bessie" (with fabulous harmony) and first-rate covers of Bill Monroe's "Pike County Breakdown," and Flatt and Scruggs's "We'll Meet Again Sweetheart."

Different Roads: is a well-crafted collection of 14 tracks culled from The Seldom Scene's first seven albums. Every cut is a genuine bluegrass classic providing as much listening satisfaction today as they provided three decades ago. The versatile vocal stylings of John Duffy and John Starling are perfectly suited to each song. An abundance of musical top-notch support is evident in Tom Gray's dependable bass line, Ben Eldridge's infectious driving banjo and Mike Auldridge's inventive Dobro. It just does not get any better than "Walk Through This World With Me," "Wait A Minute," Old Train," and a lovely treatment of Norman Blake's "Last Train From Poor Valley."

Mountain Preacher's Son: from Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys, available for the first time on CD, is an all-gospel collection taken from recordings made from 1979 to 1985. Arguably the best lineup of Clinch Mountain Boys ever, members included Curly Ray Cline (fiddle), Jack Cooke (bass), Junior Blankenship (lead guitar) and Charlie Sizemore (rhythm guitar and lead and harmony vocals). This group of men played together longer than any other configuration (nine years) and their prime is gloriously captured in this special compilation. A short list of highlights includes "The Man in the Middle" with harmony that will raise the hair on the back of your neck and two a capella arrangements, "I'll Wear A White Robe," and the title cut, every song comes from deep in their soul and it will reach deep into your soul.

If it gets any better than these phenomenal three CDs, let me know. On a five-point scale of traditional bluegrass excellence, these releases merit a six.

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