Now that Tony Rice is essentially retired from active playing, chances to hear new recordings from him lie in the archives. That’s what this recording is, a two-CD set from a live show he and David Grisman recorded in 1997 in North Carolina. At the time, their recording Tone Poems was somewhat new, and it’s from that recording that just over half the 23 tunes played on this album come. In fact, Grisman and Rice fall only four short of playing the entire Tone Poems album.
As live recordings go, this is a good one. The two are masters of knowing how to work microphones, laying out, and moving in. The guitar and mandolin are well-suited to duet recordings. The tone is excellent and there’s some room ambiance, as there should be, or else why record live? All that is a plus, as is the playing of Rice and Grisman. But then, that goes without saying.
Of the two discs, the first is the most varied and energetic. More upbeat tunes are included, among them explosive versions of “Good Old Mountain Dew,” “Eighth Of January,” and “Ralph’s Banjo Special.” There’s a fine nod to Django Reinhardt on “Swing 42” and a nod to the early Grisman Quintet recordings on “Opus 38.” They’re balanced by slower, bluesier covers of “Watson Blues,” “I Am A Pilgrim,” and Rice’s solo of “Shenandoah.” Disc two is filled with slower tunes, many with long rubato intros. The best here are the melodic “Banks Of The Ohio” and the swift “Fanny Hill.” And “O, Solo Mio” makes for a nice closer.
I could have done with cutting some of the spoken introductions, and particularly with Rice’s tendency to noodle while Grisman is talking. Those are small prices to pay, however, for another chance to hear the artistry of Grisman and Rice at the top of their game. (Acoustic Disc, P.O. Box 4143, San Rafael, CA 94913, www.acousticdisc.com.)BW