Compass Records 746872
Let’s put the term “musical legend” aside here folks. It certainly applies to Bobby Osborne, who along with Jesse McReynolds and other true originals took the foundations of bluegrass mandolin, handed down by the great Big Mon, and introduced their own unique and invaluable contributions to that sound. And that doesn’t even include the enormous impact he and brother Sonny had in helping keep bluegrass alive during the 1950s until the folk boom introduced bluegrass to thousands of eager college students.
No, for now, we’ll stay in the now. And right now, Bobby Osborne is one of the most compelling vocalists in bluegrass, as his new solo CD, the aptly titled Original, demonstrates again and again. Filled with stunning picking, brilliantly original material selections, and the big voice of Osborne whose keening tenor voice is instantly not just heard, but felt.
“Make The World Go Away,” a song famously rendered by Elvis, Eddy Arnold, and Ray Price, gets the full Nashville Sound treatment here, with a brilliant string arrangement supporting Osborne’s perfectly plaintive voice and mandolin. Speaking of Elvis, Bobby gets the full Presley going on “Don’t Be Cruel.” And the Grammy Award-nominated “Got To Get A Message To You” shows how a cagy veteran can take material from an utterly foreign style such as (gulp) the Bee Gees and make it his own, along with help from Nashville superpickers Alison Brown, Sierra Hull, Stuart Duncan, Sam Bush, Jim Hurst, Todd Phillips, Claire Lynch, Del McCoury, Missy Raines, Josh Williams, and more across this brilliant, star-spangled CD.
The now of this album is Bobby’s timeless voice, still strong and high and clear. It’s straight-from-the-still bluegrass, distilled into a contemporary package that will please modern bluegrass fans as much as the old guard who loved “Ruby” and “Rocky Top” when they were new. Even better, Bobby has joined forces with mandolinists Scott Napier and Lauren Price to host a bluegrass mandolin camp deep in Kentucky for those wanting to learn firsthand from one of the fresh and most original voices ever to play bluegrass. Keep on being original Bobby. No one does it better. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)DJM