So Long of a Journey
Sugar Hill Records, Inc.
by Allen Price
From 1978 until they went their separate ways in 1992, there wasn't another band in bluegrass quite like Hot Rize. While they were each outstanding musicians in their own right (as evidenced by their individual successes since then), something magical happened when these four fellows got together. Whether performing in their bluegrass personas or as their cowboy alter egos, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, they produced an energy together that permeated everything they sang, spoke or played.
Reuniting in 1996 for an eleven date tour, bass player Nick Forster arranged for a recording of their concerts to be made at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado. Not telling his band mates, he successfully allowed the recording to capture a performance that was unmarred by an awareness that the tape was running. Following the unfortunate passing of guitar player Charles Sawtelle, the tapes were unearthed and released in Sawtelle's memory.
Although they had not played together for almost four years, it sounds as though they had never parted. Their precision and timing are surpassed only by their exuberance. There are the classic Hot Rize tunes like Radio Boogie and Nellie Kane. There are also tunes introduced on the tour, like Sawtelle's instrumental The Butcher's Dog, and the touching ballad A Voice on the Wind. With Sawtelle now gone, So Long Of A Journey serves as a snapshot of a special band that had a special magic all its own.
Hot Rize fans will find this album a must-have. Others simply haven't heard them yet. Yeah, they were that great.