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Album Review

Although Jim Smoak made his rep playing banjo for Bill Monroe way back in 1954, he ceased performing for a living after the early '60s. Smoak, however, never lost his love for bluegrass, and as Carolina Boy shows, never lost his ability to pick the banjo. His banjo playing, though, is only one of several reasons to like Carolina Boy. Smoak is also an affable singer, and has a knack for choosing both straightforward classics ("I'll Fly Away") and unexpected jazzy gems ("Old Shanty Town"). He's joined by the L.A, Honeydrippers, a group that includes fiddler/mandolinist Mike Cleveland, bassist Sonny Stephens, and guitarist Brian Allen. Both Cleveland and Allen are virtuosos in their own right, and it's fun to hear them cut loose on an instrumental like "Swing That Pretty Girl Round." The lineup is further bolstered by the harmonies of Johanna Smoak, Joanie Prentice, and Sonny Prentice. Smoak, on top of his other talents, is a good songwriter, willing — unlike most bluegrass writers — to add an unusual chords and a ragtime flavor. All of these elements — good songs, hot picking, and solid vocals — come together in the most natural way on Carolina Boy, making the album easy to listen to and easy to enjoy. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., Rovi

Carolina Boy, Jim Smoak & The L.A. Honeydrippers
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