Ray Edwards is a long-term sideman for a number of Nashville country music stars, a multi-instrumentalist, and an accomplished songwriter. This CD features six compositions by Edwards (typically written in conjunction with Terry Foust), plus six additional cuts that have become his favorites through the years. There are two or three cuts that are decidedly country, with suitable country backing, with the remainder falling clearly into the bluegrass category.
Edwards sings lead on three of his own compositions, “Life Of A Mountain Man,” “I Would Have Loved You All Night Long,” and “The Cold Hard Facts Of Love” and sings harmony parts on most of the remaining songs. He also contributes the banjo work on most cuts. His lead vocals are solid and heartfelt, and his banjo work (both five- and six-string) shows a solid grasp of what sounds good in a bluegrass (or country) tune. His chops are right-on. (It should be noted, Edwards was awarded the designation of World Banjo Champion in Reidsville, N.C., in the early ’70s).
Also contributing a lead vocal each are Junior Sisk (“Wanda Lou”), Will Jones (“West Virginia Song Bird”), Tim Terry (Don Rigsby’s “My Best Pal”), Danny Paisley (“Tennessee”), Bradley Walker (a very fine “When The Golden Leaves Begin To Fall”), Steven Dowdy (“Boat Of Love”), and Ronnie McCranie (“Out Of The Blue”). Alan Bibey (mandolin), Adam Haynes (fiddle), Will Jones (guitar), and Terry Smith (bass) provide a good share of the bluegrass backup, but there’s a large cast of supporting musicians here, all turning in fine performances. Overall, this is a very solid, entertaining CD, with good material and first-rate performances by all concerned.
Two cuts, however, stand out and deserve special mention. Ronnie McCranie’s “Out Of The Blue” sounds like George Jones in top form. It’s easy to see why he was selected to do Jones’ voiceovers on Tammy Wynette’s movie Stand By Your Man. And Edwards’ lead vocals from the 1990 recording “I Would Have Loved You All Night Long” leave one wondering why he was not given a major deal in Nashville. The vocal delivery on this cut, with full classic country backing, is as fine as any you could hope to hear coming out of Nashville. The bluegrass cuts here are quite good, but these two country tracks steal the show. And maybe that’s okay. I’m just sitting here wishing Edwards could put out an entire CD of his vocal country work from 1990. (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, SC 29673, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)AW