DVD Reviews: Brothers Doing It Right

The Osborne Brothers in Concert at Renfro Valley (Pinecastle)
The Osborne Brothers Live in Germany (Pinecastle)
The Osborne Brothers

By Bob Mitchell

April brings spring showers and in April 2007 Pinecastle showered fans of traditional bluegrass with first time ever DVDs featuring the legendary Osborne Brothers. Everything about these projects is special. "Renfro Valley" is one of very few professionally recorded live performances.

Kentucky Entertainment Television originally recorded the show in 1962 and it has been out of print for 10 years. But the tapes have been recently transferred to a modern format worthy of the Brothers and their band: Gene Wooten (Dobro), David Crowe (fiddle), Terry Smith (bass) and Terry Eldridge (guitar and vocals). Interestingly, The Osborne Brothers were inducted into the IBMA Hall of Honor two years after this concert.

Highlights include an outstanding cover of Jimmie Skinner's "Doin' My Time," spine-tingling trio harmony on "Kentucky" (which drew a standing ovation from the sold out audience), Eldridge's poignant "One Tear," and Wooten's magic Dobro on "Foggy Mountain Rock."

The camera's close-up work allows the viewer to see the artist's fingers at work during solos and "full shots" permit the viewer to enjoy the band's on-stage performance. I enjoyed watching their eye contact and the interactions, especially, the smiles of satisfaction and encouragement they gave one another.

Live in Germanyis also a unusual set of one DVD and two CDs. Unlike Renfro Valley, the concert was videoed by a fan with a single stationary camera in the back of the room as opposed to a professional videographer.

However, after two years of delicate re-mastering effort, Sonny Osborne and John Eberle (engineer), a first-rate transfer to DVDs and CDs was accomplished. The 1989 performance was taped when the Brothers were touring Europe with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. What is lacking in sharp images is more than made up for with an energetic show in front of an appreciative audience.

The band consists of the same members as the Renfro Valley show with the exception of Steve Thomas on fiddle and harmony vocals. If you ever attended a bluegrass show in a small venue, you will feel right at home as you watch. If you have never been to such a show, you owe it to yourself to see a concert like this one. I have always enjoyed an up-close-and-personal concert as opposed to the show in a huge auditorium and this DVD captures the special intimacy of a smaller room.

Musical highlights include a fiery "Katy Hill," twin fiddling on "Faded Love," Bobby's soaring "Ruby," Sonny's fabulous banjo holding everything together and the occasional Eldridge vocal, notably "Muddy Bottom."

According to a press release, the Osborne Brothers were the first bluegrass band to play at the White House. Thanks to these first rate projects, the Brothers can now play at your home too. On a five-point scale of excellence these releases merits a five.

For more info see www.Pinecastle.com.