june 2012

bobby osborne
Bobby Osborne: Ready to ride…

Get On Board…

By David McGee

Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press
Rural Rhythm

Bobby Osborne keeps rollin’ on and aging gracefully, to the point where New Bluegrass & Old Heartaches can fairly be said to rank among his finest latter-day albums. Of course the Rocky Top X-Press (Glen Duncan, fiddle; Bobby Osborne, Jr., acoustic bass and vocals; Mike Toppins, 6-string banjo; Joe Miller, acoustic guitar) plays with impeccable technique, great spirit and admirable restraint when the occasion demands a more sensitive approach—witness, as per the latter, the dirge-like moanings of fiddle and voices (a rich trio mix of Bobby on lead, Bobby Jr. on tenor and Glen Duncan on baritone) on the plaintive howl of abject despair in “I Wrecked My Life,” a woeful tale of a lover’s triangle that ended in a jealous, murderous rage. The group is suitably restrained in a way that enhances the undercurrent of rage at betrayal Osborne conveys in his own gut wrenching “The Last Bridge You’ll Burn”—a song Bobby wrote in the early ‘70s but was buried in the archives all these years and certainly gets a proper showcase and a most riveting vocal performance in 2012.

Even when things turn sprightly here, though, the subject matters doesn’t always follow suit. Glen Duncan’s bright toe-tapper “Why Don’t You Turn Me Loose” rails against an unfaithful paramour and Bobby gives it an appropriately pleading-but-assertive reading, while Duncan’s fiddle sprints through the arrangement, with Toppins’s banjo right on its heels. On the other hand, Jake Landers’s “I’m Going Back to the Mountain” kicks off the festivities on a lively note of homecoming and escape from the drudgery of city life, with Duncan and Toppins spicing up Osborne’s uplifting vocal with upbeat fiddle and banjo flourishes. Returning to this theme at the album’s close, Bobby gets the spirit with a resolute reading of Greg Preece’s ode to the bluegrass state, “Born in Kentucky,” a love song to a place that exists in fact and in the heart for Osborne, with Duncan’s aching fiddle lines underscoring the singer’s affection for his home state.

Either way you cut it—new bluegrass or old heartaches—this long player finds the legendary Bobby and his laudable band in fine form. An emotional roller coaster of an album, it’s well worth the ride.  

Bobby Osborne  & The Rocky Top X-Press’s New Bluegrass & Old Heartaches is available at www.amazon.com

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024