When one buys an instrumental CD it is usually because of the skill of the player. Based on Jim Mills' previous two releases on Sugar Hill I had high expectations and these were met, but the stars of his new CD (Hide Head Blues), at least from Mills' point of view, are the vintage banjos he is showing off on the recording.
Instead of profiling the guest performers, who are an all star grouping including Stuart Duncan, Dan Tyminski, Adam Steffey, and Barry Bales on most tracks, Mills chooses to highlight the history and characteristics of the four vintage Gibson banjos he plays. Each banjo was selected for the particular quality it brings to the pieces Jim plays which covers many bluegrass styles.
As usual Mills contrasts the instrumentals with vocals including his own lead on Guitar Rag on which he also plays a very nice Travis style guitar. It is a highlight which makes one wonder why he does not sing more. He does provide some harmony in his usual gig with Ricky Skaggs but this cut shows a new dimension of his talent. Also outstanding is a duet on Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar with Don Rigsby and Tyminski.
Jim Mills plays the banjo with feeling and taste. There are just enough notes and not one more. He is a hot picker but he knows when to play and when not to which is a rare talent. Any lover of banjo music will enjoy this CD.
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