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Barren County

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Album Review

By 1979, the New Grass Revival's name defined the progressive branch of the bluegrass tree. Furthermore, they had developed into a crack unit, with a good reputation as live performers and polished studio players. Both mandolinist Sam Bush and bassist John Cowan covered the lead vocals, while guitarist/dobroist Curtis Burch and banjoist Courtney Johnson filled out the band's sound. The band's eclectic song choices, acoustic/electric arrangements, and professionalism are all on display on its fifth album, Barren County. Things really start clicking on the third number, "How About You," with Cowan singing a fine rock & roll lead and Bush adding electric guitar. Bush follows with "Crazy in the Night," one of the band's many odes to romance, before Cowan delves into Steven F. Brines and Bush's "Don't Look Back." Brines, in fact, co-wrote four of the nine songs on the album, qualifying him as a silent fifth member of the group. "Souvenir Bottles" stands as perhaps the strongest piece on the album, featuring an energetic joint lead vocal by Bush and Cowan. As good as Barren County is, however, the album's airtight sound has stripped away the rougher edges associated with traditional bluegrass. This approach seems to render the material soulless at times, as though little has been left to chance. Nonetheless, one never doubts the ability of the players or the quality of the material, and fans will consider this a fine effort by the pre-Béla Fleck/Pat Flynn version of the band. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1972 in Kentucky

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s

New Grass Revival, formed in 1972 by four former members of the Bluegrass Alliance, flourished in a decade when numerous groups took traditional bluegrass and changed it to varying degrees. The group was successful enough to have the group's name become a generic label: "newgrass." The band's image, with long hair and occasionally electrified instruments, as well as its musical material contrasted greatly with standard (traditional) bluegrass like that played by Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, the Lilly...
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Barren County, New Grass Revival
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