Ten In Hand Records THR9001

   When I’m Free is the first studio recording by the legendary Hot Rize in over twenty years and, thankfully, it more than lives up to the hype. The group was very influential during its initial run in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, producing music that was innovative and forward thinking, yet true to the underlying bluegrass groove. The original members of Hot Rize were Pete Wernick, Tim O’Brien, Charles Sawtelle, and Mike Scap. Three months into the project, Scap was replaced by Nick Forster who, for in all intents and purposes, was the true “original” bass player, songwriter, and vocalist of the troupe.

Sawtelle unfortunately passed in 1999 and, by 2002, the great guitarist Bryan Sutton was brought into the fold where he remains. When word of this reunion tour and album surfaced, there was much anticipation as to what the new music would sound like. The good news is that When I’m Free more than lives up to the Hot Rize standard and stands tall on its own. Out of the gate is the Forster/O’Brien-penned song “Western Skies,” an infectious and rollicking cut that brings to life the feel of Colorado (where the band was formed almost forty years ago) with lyrics that include: I don’t believe I’ll be content again until I see those western skies, sunshine on the open plain, blue sky across the mountain range, when I’m free, that’s where I’ll be.

Every song on this album is good, from Wernick’s instrumental “Sky Rider” to new classics for a new generation such as “Blue Is Fallin’,” “You Were On My Mind This Morning,” “A Cowboy’s Life,” “Never Met A One Like You,” and the aforementioned “Western Skies.” (

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