Pop & Rock

Blistering Bluegrass


Jeanie and Harry West's recordings sound like an archivist's dream. Listening to them, you might think you've stumbled across some collection of folk and bluegrass rarities stashed in an attic since the turn of the century. In fact, the duo started recording just before the folk revival of the '50s. The collection Country Bluegrass, a combination of the albums Country Music In The Bluegrass Style and Roamin' The Blue Ridge, was released on Prestige in 2000 and stands as a flawless example of traditional old-time music.

Jeanie's unabashedly hillbilly vocals and a solid banjo tether each of other otherwise loose recordings. The great thing about Country Bluegrass is the vigor with which the cuts are attacked -- even the "slow" songs burn with a speed and intensity that conjures images of a backwoods barn dance after uncorking the jug wine. Tracks like "Poor Ellen Smith" and "Take This Hammer" practically burst with blistering picking. Also stunning are their takes on favorites such as "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" and "Bury Me Beneath The Willow."

If you own the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, produced by T Bone Burnett (the man behind Elvis Costello's latest bluegrass romp Secret, Profane And Sugacane), Country Bluegrass makes a wonderful companion piece. You might want to hold off on the jug wine, though.

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