Bluegrass tributes to country (and other forms of music) are not rare. Those that work in a convincing manner are. A country song can’t always be forced, unadjusted, into a bluegrass form or vice versa. Thought must be taken, and the necessaries of both styles captured. With this CD of remakes of 13 country tunes from the ’60s through the ’90s, all but four of them featuring shared lead vocals by the original country artists, Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road have captured those necessaries when necessary.
“Runnin’ Water,” with vocals from the Kentucky Headhunters and “Darned If I Don’t, Danged If I Do,” with Marty Raybon representing his former group Shenandoah, offer the straightest bluegrass performances. Both of those tunes adapted well to up-tempo Scruggs banjo and sound for the most part as though they were always bluegrass tunes. Only a few of the rhythmic punctuations and the way the words are phrased on “Darned…” hint otherwise and even then it’s not that different from many aspects of contemporary bluegrass songwriting. Both are strong tracks.
Equally good is Crystal Gayle’s “Ready For The Times” which retained its original sinuous, and powerful feel even as it was being adapted to bluegrass instruments, if not necessarily bluegrass performance. The same could be said for Jim Ed Brown’s reprising of “You Can Have Her,” with its finger snaps and guitar swing, and for “Diggin’ Up Bones” with guitarist Tommy Long giving a solid Randy Travis impersonation. Ben Greene’s banjo take on Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date,” slip-key sound and all, is another. More of a mixture are Lynn Anderson’s classic “Rose Garden,” Eddy Raven’s “I Got Mexico,” John Conlee’s “Common Man” and Lee Greenwood’s “Dixie Road.” All of those draw on the best of both camps to create a solid composite.
Thoughtful arrangements (largely from fiddler/multi-instrumentalist Josh Goforth, who had a hand in all of them) and a pre-dominantly bright, positive feel in both song selection and in presentation make this an unqualified success—and fun. (Pinecastle Records, 5000 Old Buncombe Rd., Ste. 27-242, Greenville, SC 29617, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW