Almost 60 years have passed since Wild Bill Emerson burst on the scene and, listening to Eclipse, you'd swear the fine old gent was still in his thirties! Those gifted hands haven't aged a day, nor has that wry mind ever settled for the straight take, thinking instead like Chet Atkins and Les Paul, ever forwarding the craft. This release is almost entirely instrumental (3 vocal tracks out of 14) and a tribute to the bluegrass tradition as well as to Emerson's perpetually renewed vitality in a tangent the style has been thankfully taking in the last decade or so, many thanks to him among others.
Banjo, it goes without saying, is up front in everything here, and Bill's well accompanied in a backing foursome fitting his tone and imagination like hand in glove. Over half the songs are his, along with four traditionals, a track by his fiddler, Jenny Leigh Obert, and a breakdown penned by Ralph Stanley. The entire ensemble enjoys wide latitude in solos alongside Emerson's trademark lyricality and whipsaw precision. That means you get not only the hallowed 5-string instrument that pretty much defines the Western/Appalachian sound but some mighty fine fiddle, guitar, bass, and mandolin besides. Still in all, the banjoist's wily ways with melody and lead work carry the day once more, and in fare like No Steering - No Brakes" can be found such brilliant examples as would make even players like Steve Howe and Tommy Emmanuel sit up and take notice, smiling the happy grin of musicians who know a fellow master when they hear one.
You're going to have to look hard for the disc, though: the cover does the estimable Emerson a disservice by minimizing his name to near-unnoticeability and then obscures the CD title with ill-chosen color smears inside lower case letters while featuring photos of star clouds within and on the back shot. On a bluegrass CD??? Yeesh! So, I'm warning ya: peer closely at the racks or you'll miss this one, and that would be a shame, 'cause Emerson's name is synonymous with first class music worthy of enshrinement.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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