It has been six year since the Nashville Bluegrass Band's last album. During that time, tours, life events, individual projects, changes in band membership and the O Brother Where Art Thou? phenomenon have come between them and the completion of another recording. Until, at long last, now.
This is the album that marks the 20th anniversary of the band. While others may use this as an opportunity to send out a compilation of their greatest hits, the Nashville Bluegrass Band has chosen to mark this milestone with a fresh, new recording. This collection, their first since the return of Mike Compton on mandolin and addition of Dennis Crouch on bass, has all the energy and precision of any NBB recording. And there are some sparkling standouts.
The memories of Bill Monroe and John Hartford are evoked on a tune they co-wrote but never recorded, Old Riverman. Alan O'Bryant's lead vocal conjures up both a wistful image of the riverboat pilots, and the spirits of these great musical legends. The song is both haunting and uplifting.
Compton gives the bluegrass staple Sitting on Top of the World a bluesy bend, both vocally and instrumentally. Stuart Duncan's fiddle and O'Bryant's banjo punctuate the verses at just the right time in just the right way. New bassist Dennis Crouch's bass solo fits the band's trademark sound like he's been there the entire two decades.
Gospel music, a part of NBB's infrastructure from day one is showcased in an a capella rendition of Hush. No one in bluegrass music sings harmonies of this kind quite like the Nashville Bluegrass Band.
The clarity and strength of Pat Enright's lead vocals runs counter to the nasal twang of many of his contemporaries, and is at its best when singing the songs of Jimmie Rodgers. (That was Enright's yodel in the Soggy Bottom Boys' performance of In the Jailhouse Now. Here, he takes on Rodgers' Gambling Barroom Blues.) He brings you right into that smoky barroom.
One gets so taken with the smoothness of the initiation of Crouch and return of Compton that it is easy to overlook the remaining core of the band. O'Bryant, Duncan and guitar player Pat Enright continue to provide the foundation of the band's sound. While it has been a long wait, it was well worth it.
The Nashville Bluegrass Band's twenty years have only left us wanting to hear more. So, here's to the next twenty years, boys.
Page design by David N. Pyles