A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Al Price
Having had the opportunity to see IIIrd Tyme Out at Wintergrass in Tacoma, I looked forward to hearing LETTER TO HOME, their first release on Rounder. My anticipation was justified. LETTER TO HOME captures that instrumental and vocal precision which distinguishes IIIrd Tyme Out in live performance.
IIIrd Tyme Out is not a group dominated by one musician. Rather, each player is accomplished in his own right. The pieces are blended into a balanced and clean mix, allowing each part to contribute to a greater overall work. One would suspect that this group has been playing together for many years though that is not the case. Vocals? After listening through this album once, it's no surprise that IIIrd Tyme Out was the International Bluegrass Music AssociationŐs vocal group of the year in 1994.
The selections on this album each can stand alone. They vary in pace, message and source. Its tough to single out individual cuts, as each time this album is heard, different songs made me stop and give the music my full attention. Nonetheless, here are some highlights: "Broken Hearted Lover"- A wonderful blending of Steve Dilling's bluesy banjo and Russell Moore's vocals. Man, can that guy sing. "Raining In L.A."- Mike Hartgrove's fiddle echoes the vocals in the chorus, Wayne Benson's mandolin jumps in for a solo, Dilling's banjo dances through each verse. It all comes together perfectly. "Only You"- Yep, the Ink Spots song. A cappella. Given their vocal credentials, one would expect a song to showcase their talents. Rather than going with a gospel tune, they surprise us with "Tobacco Jack", the lone instrumental. This selection gives each member a chance to show their instrumental muscles - and they do.
LETTER TO HOME will be a great addition to every died-in-the-wool bluegrass purist's collection. For the person who hasn't heard much bluegrass, this is a great place to start. You'll discover that bluegrass isn't just about dead dogs and moonshiners.