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Named after the recording studio where they spent a week recording their debut album, Longview was a supergroup comprised of six top-ranked traditional bluegrass musicians and vocalists. With a sound that recalled the bluegrass bands of the 1940s and '50s, the sextet produced a memorable tribute to the roots of the hill-country sound.
Longview was first conceived during a late night jam session at the Denton, North Carolina Bluegrass Festival in 1994. A celebration of Rounder Records' 25th anniversary, the session featured James King, Dudley Cornell and Don Rigsby. King, who had recorded with Ralph Stanley in the 1980s, had garnered acclaim with his solo albums including Lonesome And Then Some in 1997 and These Old Pictures in 1995. Cornell, whose father had played with the Johnson Boys in the Washington, D.C. area in the 1950s, had sung lead and played guitar with the Johnson Mountain Boys and had replaced the late John Duffey in the Seldom Scene. Rigsby had played mandolin and sang high tenor vocals in a lengthy list of bands, including the Bluegrass Cardinals, J.D. Crowe & the New South and the Lonesome River Band.
The magic generated during the jam session was reinforced a few months later during a similar jam session at a bluegrass festival in Ohio that featured Cornell, fiddler Glen Duncan and banjo player Joe Mullins. Duncan, who co-led Lonesome Standard Time from 1991 to 1995, was a veteran of recording sessions with Bill Monroe, Jim & Jesse, the Osborne Brothers, Reba McEntire and Barbara Mandrell, while Mullins had been a member of Traditional Grass from 1983 until 1995.
At the encouragement of Ken Irwin, co-owner of Rounder, the five musicians came together with bass player Marshall Wilborn of the Lynn Morris Band for a week in December 1995 at the Long View Recording studio complex in North Brookfield, Massachusetts. Recording most tunes live without overdubs, the group cut three songs per day for five consecutive days and performed a live show for a small audience. With a focus on traditional-sounding songs by the Louvin Brothers, Don Reno and Ralph Stanley, the week-long session resulted in an album of tight ensemble playing and emotionally rich vocal harmonies. High Lonesome followed in mid-1999.