A review for posting on the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange.
By Arthur Berman
Since the premature demise of the Johnson Mountain Boys and the Traditional Grass many have feared for the fate of straight ahead, undiluted bluegrass. Anyone who heard James King's first CD on Rounder, THESE OLD PICTURES, knew that King was the real thing. His current release, LONESOME AND THEN SOME, proves that the high standard heard is being maintained. Of course it does not hurt that King is again backed by an all star cast featuring Dudley Connell on guitar and tenor vocals, Tom Adams on banjo, David McLaughlin on crosspick guitar and vocals, and Marshall Wilborn on bass. All have played with the aforementioned Johnson Mountain Boys. Rounding out the recording band was Tim Smith on fiddle and Mike Compton, formerly with the Nashville Bluegrass Band, providing his usual Monroe style mandolin picking.
With that cast the picking almost had to be stellar. King, however, is the centerpiece of this CD with his vocals. He reminds me of a cross between Carter Stanley and Dave Evans. In other words, his vocals display both power and sensitivity. This package includes Hazel Dickens' touching "A Few Old Memories,"" Lovesick and Sorrow," a tune associated with one of King's inspirations, Ted Lundy, and the swing oriented "One Way Ticket To the Blues." Few singers could pull off the treatment King manages on three tunes so varied in their vocal requirements.
King's first Rounder CD took shape when Dudley Connell agreed to sing harmony. One can only describe King and Connell's harmony as bluegrass heaven. Connell's tenor soars on powerful tunes like Ola Belle Reed's "Indecision." There is much hot picking on this CD, but it is all in service of the vocals.
It is a rare treat for a project to meet high expectations created by an effort like THESE OLD PICTURES. That LONESOME AND THEN SOME does is a tribute to James King's talent and taste. Run to your nearest distributor of Rounder records if you are a lover of traditional bluegrass, or if you appreciate soulful singing.