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Album Review

This is the fourth release on David "Dawg" Grisman's (mandolin/vocals) highly respected Acoustic Disc record label. While Dawg's multifarious talents in front of the microphone are undeniably brilliant, it is his lesser-lauded behind the scenes work as a conduit for equally skilled sonic craftsmen that is most prominently displayed here. This release gathers a quintet of musicians who at one time or another have crossed paths with Dawg. These range from bluegrass legend Red Allen (guitar/vocal), for whom Grisman cut his teeth as a producer as well as mandolin player in the early '60s, to Jerry Garcia (guitar/vocals), with whom he shared the stage on several occasions — including the all-star bluegrass revivalist combo Old & in the Way. The pinpoint accuracy and opulent soundscape are practically tangible, again thanks to Dawg's self-taught and seemingly innate acoustic recording techniques.Bluegrass Reunion features 20 standards and traditional adaptations by a revolving cast that also includes Herb Pedersen (banjo/vocals), Jim Buchanan (fiddles/vocals), and Jim Kerwin (bass). While there is no surprise that the track list is heavy on the Acuff-Rose catalog, the tastes of the musicians refreshingly delve into some lesser-heard deep cuts. Likewise, these interpretations literally redefine the "high and lonesome sound" with eerie authenticity. This is true of both the pensively emotive reading of Helen Carter's "Is This My Destiny?" to the hot-skillet and high-steppin' instrumental "Pigeon Roost" — the album's sole original composition. Garcia's poignant vocals and lead guitar reinvent the Stanley Brothers' classic "The Fields Have Turned Brown" into a minor noir masterpiece. His loose and throaty reading of "Ashes of Love" is equally inspired as it recalls Johnnie & Jack's classic reading. While there is nary a subpar performance on Bluegrass Reunion, there are several that are explicitly recommended to enthusiasts, including "She's No Angel," "Little Maggie," and "To Love and Live Together."


Born: 12 February 1930 in Hazard, KY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s

With a high lonesome sound heavily influenced by Bill and Charlie Monroe, Red Allen quietly took his place as one of the most talented and underrated bluegrass artists of the post-World War II era. Born in Perry County, KY, he later made his mark not far from there, first landing in Dayton, OH, at the age of 19 in 1949 after a two-year stint in the Marines. In Ohio, he became acquainted with several other musicians whom he would later collaborate with, including Frank Wakefield, the Osborne Brothers...
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