There was a time when a lot of bluegrass music was this good. The banjo rolls, the busy backup fiddle, the great vocals, and a wide range of material from many sources. The pulling in of traditional nuances, putting that edgy swing into the old, and that something old into new material makes a magic that resonates with a refreshing verve. Starting off with a fine old number from Arthur Smith and Alton Delmore, “I’ve Had A Big Time Today,” then running through a medley of banjo tunes that are classic and old-school, this project simply oozes brilliance in execution and taste.
Having Billy C. Hurt, Jr., on fiddle is good, but when you team him up with Corrina Rose Logston and Casey Driscoll, it’s akin to pulling some of Monroe’s fine fiddle ensembles back from the other side. The fiddling here is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of. But Ernst is a banjo player, and his abilities on that instrument are head-turning. He can take on Monroe’s “Ashland Breakdown” with melodic aplomb or play Don Reno as few can. He’s also equally comfortable on guitar, as the “Flatpicking Medley” demonstrates so well.
It’s fun hearing Jeremy Stephens and wife Corrina Rose show off their considerable vocal chops as they fly through the challenging “Golden Rocket,” never stumbling on the tongue-twisting lyrics. Then there’s the old swing classic “Indiana.” Ernst plays it on the banjo very well, but it really starts swinging when the triple fiddles kick in.
There are 14 tracks here and not a clunker in the lot. The cast of characters on this project is extensive and too numerous to mention them all. When you consider that Ernst and a good many of the musical cohorts here are young masters, it’s tantalizing to think what they may be up to in the future. If you like the music that was, here are some young folks making it like they did in those times. This one’s a keeper. (Patuxent Music, P.O. Box 572, Rockville, MD 20848, www.pxrec.com.)RCB