101 Ranch Recordings RRBR22

   This is an important and powerful release from three of today’s strongest personalities in bluegrass music. A local bluegrass DJ refused to play this CD because, in his opinion, it was country and not bluegrass. That line has been blurred for at least fifty years by well-established bands who used snare drums, steel guitars, and pianos on their recordings. This is a fine example of twenty-first century bluegrass. Most of us no longer live agrarian lives or live in isolated places without modern amenities. Yes rural folks often don’t have good cell service or decent Internet connections, but we live more comfortable lives by and large than our ancestors did. There is a fair amount of rural grit on this project, mostly thanks to Don Rigsby.

The three personalities all leave their stamp on the music. Smith’s guitar is all over it; Rigsby’s soulful tenor soars on the harmonies and delivers a touch of the mountains. Ronnie Bowman brings a more contemporary touch, not only with his fine vocals, but also with his songwriting. This is one of the most powerful projects for consistently great songs. They will touch you deeply and move you in ways you may not expect. They may not all be your favorite, but there’s no denying they’re all great.

The backup musicians reads like a who’s who of the Nashville music scene. They provide spot on backup and augmentation to the gifted trio that makes up the core of this project. From “Coal Mining Man” to “Between The Devil And The Deep” to “Bootleg John” to the great reading of Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway” is where the trio delivers, really selling the song. Heck they can even take on the old warhorse “Danny Boy” and make you like one more version of that old air. This is modern bluegrass that swings, rocks, sways, cries, laughs, and takes you on a musical journey that you’ll want to revisit again and again. Great stuff even if a local DJ doesn’t think so. (

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