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Acoustics

The Tony Rice Unit

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Album Review

Acoustics was released in 1979, some two years after Tony Rice's involvement with the David Grisman Quintet's debut album. Like the Grisman recording, Acoustics proved to be a groundbreaking album for progressive bluegrass musicians. The music on Acoustics is all instrumental and features an incredible group of musicians including Sam Bush, Richard Greene, Mike Marshall, Todd Phillips, and, on one cut, David Grisman. Perhaps the first thing a listener will notice is that an instrumental like "Swing 51" has very little to do with bluegrass. The essence of "Swing 51" is — as the title suggests — swing jazz. This is a romantic music, inspired by the spirit of Stephane Grapelli and Django Reinhardt and perfectly suited for acoustic instruments. "Blues for Paradise" is a lovely melody, set in motion by Rice's subtle flat-picking and brought to full beauty by Sam Bush's violin. Bush and Greene share violin duties on Acoustics, proving especially apt at defining melodies and setting the mood. The highlight of this disc is the quick paced "So Much," a piece bursting with vitality. "So Much" was written by Rice and, like the other songs on Acoustics, features open structures with fascinating chord progressions. Emphasis throughout this album is placed on instrumental dexterity, with each musician given the chance to build and develop each lead at length. The musicians also provide unadorned accompaniment, leaving lots of quiet space around the lead player. The glue holding this project together is Rice, who also played a primary role in the original David Grisman Quintet. On this album Rice expands the role of the guitar, building each lead faultlessly through intricate succession. Acoustics gives notice that acoustic musicians, like jazz musicians, possess the skills required to create spontaneous and vital music. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

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