april 2008


Retooled and re-energized,, the bluegrass supergroup Longview hits a tape-measure blast in its first at-bat since 2002's exemplary Lessons in Stone long player. In the intervening years three of the original six-man lineup have moved on to other commitments, but in their stead are some, oh, pretty good pickers and singers-try bluegrass giant/legend J.D. Crowe for starters, on banjo and vocals; he's joined by new members Lou Reid, a founding member of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, on guitar and vocals; and fiddler/harmony vocalist Ron Stewart, whose resume is long and daunting, most recently including a six-year tenure with JD Crowe & the New South. This trio joins with original members James King, Don Rigsby and Marshall Wilborn to demonstrate the enduring vitality of traditional bluegrass music in every immaculate, soaring harmony and dexterous instrumental flourish. The repertoire here is drawn from classic sources-Jim & Jessie, the Louvins, the Sloas Brothers, Dallas Frazier (whose country story-song, "The Baptism of Jesse Taylor," is blessed by a hearty James King lead vocal that beautifully understates the woebegone Jesse's misadventures in love and with the law, and a tight, loping arrangement spiced by lively instrumental ripostes courtesy banjo [Crowe], fiddle [Stewart] and mandolin [Rigbsy], among other notables. King, one of the great vocalists in bluegrass history, is riveting every time he enters, but he gets a run for his money when Rigbsy contributes a stellar, plaintive lead tenor performance on the poignant ballad, "At The First Fall of Snow," and Reid kicks off the album with a personable reading of the barnburning "Eating Out of Your Hand." Then King brings it all home at the end, with a growling rumbling romp through "Georgia Bound," a bustling workout rich in spirited ensemble and solo instrumental conversations. Good to have you back, fellas. Feels like the first time.—David McGee


Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
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Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024