Unit of Measure
Tony Rice UnitRounder CD 11661-0405-2
Rounder Records Corp.
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
You just can't keep an artist like Tony Rice down. A throat condition in recent years has pretty much ended his singing, though he was one of the finest singers in bluegrass ever. That might have made some folks put down the guitar and call it a career. |
But not Tony Rice. He continues to be a guitar player's guitar player, mixing tunes of tradition with the jazzy style that he used as an original member of the David Grisman Quintet. Though in a class by himself, he just seems to get more incredible with time.
Unit of Measure reunites Rice with a former member of the Tony Rice Unit, mandolinist Jimmy Gaudreau, as well as Wyatt Rice (guitar), Ronnie Simpkins (bass) and Rickie Simpkins (fiddle). Each of these players is and/or has been a key member of some of the most recognized bands in the past quarter century of bluegrass. While the Tony Rice Unit is representative of what has come to be called "new acoustic music", this group keeps it based in its traditional roots. Most of the tunes in this all-instrumental collection are traditional, as one can see from the list below. Of those, my favorite is Shenandoah. Played as a solo guitar piece, Rice evokes tremendous feeling and beauty into it. I've grown fond of playing this track over and over again on a quiet evening. Longtime fans of the TRU will also enjoy their reprise of Manzanita (1st variation), from the Unit's now-classic 1979 album.
Its hard to envision it possible, but Tony Rice's guitar playing just gets better with time. Rather than lamenting that we can no longer hear Rice sing, we should all be thankful to hear his voice through his guitar.