It Just Keeps Getting Better

Twenty Years of Bluegrass (Hay Holler Records)
Big Country Bluegrass

By Bob Mitchell

Several years ago, while attending a local festival, I met Big Country Bluegrass, a friendly, down-to-earth group of folks from Virginia. They play a style of bluegrass known as "Galax" or "Mt. Airy" - straight ahead and hard edged. Their rhythm and timing are solid, their instrumental work is clean and tasteful and their vocals are from the heart.

BGB, formed by husband and wife Tommy and Teresa Sells, released four self-produced albums prior to signing with Hay Holler Records and now has 10 releases on the label. In this reviewer's opinion, the most recent recording is their best effort yet. They just get better and better. While you may not have an opportunity to sit and chat with the band, you can get a copy of the CD and enjoy some of the best music you are likely to hear this year.

Tommy plays mandolin while Teresa provides rhythm guitar as well as lead and tenor vocals. Alan Mastin contributes a rock solid acoustic upright bass. Jeff Michael, the band's workhorse supplies fiddle, lead guitar, most of the lead singing and harmony to Teresa's and Johnny's leads. Other members include Lynwood Lunsford (banjo and baritone) and Johnny Williams (rhythm guitar, lead and harmony vocals).

Some of the many musical highlights are a lively "Now I'm Going Home," tight trio arrangements of "Never Again," and "I Just Want To Grow Old Loving You," feisty covers of Bill Monroe's "Watermelon On The Vine" and "You'd Better Get Right," and exceptional covers of Charlie Monroe's "I'm Old Kentucky Bound," and "Walking With You In My Dreams."

Michael, the man at the center of it all, is everywhere. And, he's phenomenal. He not only penned five outstanding tracks, especially "Jealous Pride," "and Alone Again Tonight," but also contributes strong lead vocals on both tracks. Michael's bow work is also first rate, notably on original instrumentals, "Pretty Little Woodpile," and "Quarry Road." Lunsford's banjo, also a major driving force, shines bright on every track.

On a five-point scale of excellence this release merits a five

For more information go to www.hayholler.com