Top Of The Hill Bluegrass

Various Artists

(SHCD-9201)
Sugar Hill Records

A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Al Price (banjoman@banjoman.seanet.com)

Top Of The Hill Bluegrass presents a wonderful overview of where bluegrass is today. The selections are contemporary and intelligently written. The liner votes summarize it well, "... most important are the beliefs that traditional music is a living thing that needs to be nurtured if it is to survive, and that the best way to honor a musical tradition is to build upon it..." Listening through TOTHBG causes one to realize what a grand contribution labels like Sugar Hill have made toward this end, and wonder what the state of bluegrass music would be were they not around.

The selections are upbeat and articulate. They represent the best of what has come from Sugar Hill in its seventeen years. It provides the newcomer to bluegrass with an excellent "starter kit," and the seasoned listener with a variety of high quality selections. TOTHBG is like having 20 of the choicest bluegrass discs in your CD changer and hitting the "random" button. Included with the disc is an eight page booklet describing each of the twenty acts and the album from which the song was taken.

It seems like a bargain when you first pick up this CD, and it truly is. But it's certain to cause you to add more to your CD collection. My favorite tracks:

"That High Lonesome Sound" - Peter Rowan & the Nashville Bluegrass Band. This song is an up tempo version of Rowan's tribute to the modern summer bluegrass festivals.

"Long Gone" is already somewhat of a classic by the Lonesome River Band, a great modern bluegrass group.

"B&B Rag"- Dan Crary. With Byron Berline, John Hickman and Dan Moore, is a solid instrumental showcasing the musicianship of these master performers.

"Toy Heart" is Roland White's interpretation of Mr. Monroe's classic ballad, with Stuart Duncan, David Grier, Gene Wooten and Richard Bailey and Gene Libbea accompanying.

"Lonesome Standard Time"- Lonesome Standard Time. This bluegrass group's signature song.

No doubt about it- this album is a must have. I could go on and on, but its time to make another trip to my local CD store. There goes the VISA bill.

Selections:

Copyright 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior written permission and attribution.

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