Rebel Records REB-CD-1864

   This is bluegrass music like it used to be in years gone by. Fine vocals and strong, time-tested material free of cliche and instantly recognizable as a fine example of what made bluegrass great. Strong duets and trios marked by first-rate picking are encased in exciting and refreshing arrangements that call to mind the great bands of a half-century ago. High Fidelity is a game changer, just as the Johnson Mountain Boys were in the late 1970s. They bring the old up to date while instilling new spirit into the original music.

Jeremy Stephens and wife Corrina sing some powerful duets, as on the opening cut “My Savior’s Train” or “Leaf Of Love,” which also has a fine example of Kurt Stephenson’s command of the Reno-style of banjo with it’s robust chordal approach. Jeremy Stephens is also quite capable in this style, as they prove on the Reno classic “Follow The Leader.” They also team up on “Gotta Get You Near Me Blues” where the twin banjos really sound great. There’s a tip of the hat to the influence of the early Country Gentlemen with the John Duffey title-track and the use of The Gents’ arrangement of the Carter Family classic “I Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow.”

Corrina’s fiddling is a highlight on this recording. Her fills and breaks are spot-on, gritty, and succinct. Her reading of the great old fiddle tune “Grey Eagle” is a real treat. Bass players are often over looked and taken for granted. Vickie Vaughn’s playing is also spot-on and ever tasteful. Her note choices and timing are essential to the greatness of this band’s sound. Daniel Amick plays in an understated but dead-on mandolin style that fits with the tenor of the band’s presentation.

The trio shines on the gospel numbers “I’ve Changed My Mind” and on Jim & Jesse’s “I Will Always Be Waiting For You.” The band reaches back to find good material that is not overdone. They dust off a very satisfying “Maple On The Hill” and dig back into an old hymnal to get at the true essence of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” resulting in the best version I’ve ever heard. If you like traditional bluegrass that sounds like bluegrass and embraces the old-time values of a time gone by, look no further. This is bluegrass from the true vine of the tradition. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)RCB

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