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Blue Ridge Express

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Album Review

Blue Ridge Express is a wonderful compilation, consisting of the best cuts from bluegrass banjo player Alan Munde's three '70s solo albums on the Ridge Runner label. Recorded a few years after his stint as a touring member of country-rockers the Flying Burrito Brothers, the performances here are uniformly high energy. As a founding member of the pioneering bluegrass super group Country Gazette, Munde is credited as one of the first players to successfully combine the rhythmic drive of old school "Scruggs-style" banjo picking with the newer, fiddle-based melodic style propagated by younger folk-influenced players like Bill Keith. The resulting innovative style is displayed to great effect on Blue Ridge Express. Munde's playing is often pianistic in its stunning clarity, and his notes have a bright, yet full and round, timbre unmatched by just about any other banjoist. The choice of material here is wide-ranging, and Munde performs each tune with equal conviction, from the simple, oftcovered traditional-sounding melody of folkie Steve Gillette's "Darcy Farrow" to the straight-ahead jazz of Munde's original composition "Munde's Child." The recordings here are somewhat of a revelation in that their stylistic diversity — offering subtle hints of "new grass" to come — and Munde's purity of tone make him seem like a direct influence to later smooth players like guitarist David Grier.


Born: 04 November 1946 in Norman, OK

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s

Alan Munde was an Oklahoman banjoist who first emerged in 1969 as a player with bluegrass guitarist Jimmy Martin's band. Munde remained with Martin until 1971, when he left to join Country Gazette with Roger Bush (bass), Kenny Wertz (guitar), and Byron Berline (fiddle). The combo released Traitor in Our Midst in 1972 through United Artists. Munde would remain the constant in Country Gazette over the next 20 or so years, even as its membership fluctuated around him. But he also found time to release...
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Blue Ridge Express, Alan Munde
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