From the opening notes of this project, it should be apparent to any long-time fan of bluegrass, it’s always too long in hearing Bill Emerson’s banjo grace a new recording. His sound was integral to the classic early ’70s sound of the Country Gentlemen. Here, we get to hear more of that great touch on the five-string. There is much here to like besides great banjo playing. Marshall Wilborn (bass) and Lynn Morris bring “Jesse James” to life. It’s great to hear Lynn’s voice on this project; a sign of her renewed strength and recovery. Tom Adams plays guitar and does a fine vocal reading of “Poor Rebel Soldier.”
There are nine Emerson originals on this project and at least three have a Latin tinge to them. “Español” has double-tracked banjo that adds nicely to the overall sound of the tune. “Tex Mex Shingdig” is fun and sounds as if it was borrowed in part from an old movie or cartoon. Jimmy Gaudreau and Chris Henry split the mandolin roles, both providing some tasteful and torrid playing to the mix, as required. Of the three vocal tracks, “Don’t Come Around” features fiddler Jenny Leigh Olbert on lead and harmony vocals doing some sizzling fiddling to boot. Her singing is fine, but it is her assertive fiddling that adds much to this project.
Bill Emerson has been a major contributor to bluegrass music and as this project demonstrates, he is not willing to rest on his laurels. It’s our good fortune that he still wants to create and play great bluegrass banjo. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 660040 Dept D., Arcadia, CA 91066, www.ruralrhythm.com.) RCB