Bluegrass Unlimited - Various Artists - Rural Rhythm All-Star Jam: Live At Graves MountainVARIOUS ARTISTS
THE ALL-STAR JAM: LIVE AT GRAVES MOUNTAIN
Rural Rhythm
RUR-1073

The annual Graves Mountain bluegrass festival held in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia has come to hold a symbolic and even spiritual meaning for the bluegrass community. So it’s fitting that Rural Rhythm Records chose it as a showcase for its impressive talent roster and to celebrate the label’s fiftieth anniversary.

To listen to this live album (recorded on June 4 of last year at the 18th Annual Graves Mountain Festival Of Music) in the dead of winter is a special delight. I can gaze out the window at the brown grass, muddy ice, and frozen puddles while conjuring up comforting images of better times; of great bluegrass music wafting through the early summer heat beneath the shade trees in the shadow of Graves Mountain. They could have easily called this album One Magical Day In Early June.

This live compilation features a lot of the immediacy and spontaneity that you find at most bluegrass festivals, but which can’t always be captured in the studio. Thus, we get some pluperfect live performances by Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, the Lonesome River Band, Lou Reid & Carolina, the Crowe Brothers, Carl Jackson, Audie Blaylock & Redline, and Carrie Hassler with Brand New Strings. There’s even more magic when individual members of these top-flight bands team up and share the stage in various combinations. For instance, Russell Moore, Lonesome River Band’s banjo player Sammy Shelor, and LRB fiddle player Mike Hartgrove join the Crowe Brothers for a rousing rendition of “More Pretty Girls Than One.” Similarly, Russell Moore teams with Lou Reid & Carolina for a powerful reprise of Carter Stanley’s “Lonesome River.” The album abounds with such collaborations.

The entire presentation is highlighted by “Graves Mountain Memories,” a song written especially for the occasion by Carl Jackson and sung by an all-star ensemble that includes Jackson, Audie Blaylock, Lou Reid, Russell Moore, and Carrie Hassler. (Rural Rhythm Records, P.O. Box 660040, Dept. D, Arcadia, CA 91066, www.ruralrhythm.com.) BA