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Album Review

Since the 1990s, bluegrass groups have sprouted up faster than the weeds in an old strip mall parking lot. While this has been good news for the business end of bluegrass, it hasn't always guaranteed good music. Hardcore bluegrass fans will probably agree that no matter how popular their genre has become, only a few bands can really play the music the way it should be played in 2004. That's what makes the reissue of an old album like Mac Martin and the Dixie Travelers' Travelin' On (1978) so exciting. This is classic stuff, delivered in a no-nonsense fashion. Martin, unlike many singers today, never attempts to smooth out his vocals to appeal to a broader audience. Instead, he sings it high and lonesome, making his vocal assault a purely visceral affair. Even on the opener, "Black Eyed Susie," his emotional, hard-driving delivery turns the most familiar of songs into a rollicking good time. Martin is joined by a top-notch band, featuring mandolinist Edgar "Bud" Smith, fiddler Mike Carson, banjoist Billy Bryant, and bassist Norm Azinger. This band is in its element here, whether providing short, pithy solos or backing up Martin. The material, from George Jones' "Old, Old House" to Don Reno's "Choking the Strings," is eclectic and strong, and the performance will make old-timers long for the days before the appearance of progressive and contemporary bluegrass. The reissue of Travelin' On in 2004 will be a real treat for bluegrass lovers, and a good introduction to a wonderful bluegrass artist. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., Rovi

Travelin' On, Mac Martin And The Dixie Travelers
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