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Album Review

The New Grass Revival had proven just about everything an innovative band could prove by 1981. Not only had their name come to define the progressive branch of the bluegrass tree, they continued to adhere to high standards. On Commonwealth, the band stretches its arrangements and production to the very edge with the addition of drummer Kenny Malone and pianist Leon Russell. A jubilant "Reach" inserts a joyous mood into the music from the very start, while John Hartford's "Steam Powered Aereo Plane" receives a rousing rendition. Bassist John Cowan brings his soulful vocals to the lovely "One Day I'll Walk" with a little help from Sharon White, before mandolinist Sam Bush and Cowan cut loose on a fine duet, "Nothing Wasted, Nothing Gained." The inclusion of a traditional piece like "Wicked Path of Sin," deep into the album, seems more like an afterthought than a deliberate nod to tradition. Nonetheless, aficionados of newgrass instrumentals will want to stick around for an eight-minute take on Bush's "Sapporo." The only downside, in retrospect, is that Commonwealth would be banjoist Courtney Johnson and guitarist Curtis Burch's last album with the group. Commonwealth, then, represented the culmination of a seven-year partnership and brought to a close the era the band had prospered in. Anyone who ever wondered what all the fuss was about will not regret picking up a copy of Commonwealth. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., Rovi


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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Commonwealth, New Grass Revival
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