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James Alan Shelton

Guitar Tracks – 1999 (Copper Creek)

Reviewed by Mark "Brink" Brinkman

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CDs by James Alan Shelton

If bluegrass great Ralph Stanley would record a guitar album, this might be exactly what it would sound like. James Allan Shelton has been the mainstay guitar picker for Ralph's band for many years, and this project has the Stanley imprint all over it.

To say that the cuts are traditional might even be an understatement. "Old Spinning Wheel," "Rosewood Casket" and "Sweet By and By" have been around forever. Even the tunes written by Shelton could have easily been written in the '50's. "Ghost Train" and "Road Weary Blues" offer that old mountain sound, the latter sounding a little like "Clinch Mountain Backstep" only in the key of D. Other Stanley bandmembers join in with Ralph Stanley II on rhythm guitar, James Price on fiddle and Steve Sparkman on banjo. Mandolinist extraordinaire Adam Steffey helps and Allison Krauss bassist Barry Bales holds the band together.

If looking for an album full of hot licks and flash this is not for you. Emphasis is on taste and tone. Shelton blends tasty flatpicking with a little fingerpicking and a healthy dose of cross-picking. If a Stanley fan then this album is a must for your musical library. If not, "Guitar Tracks" may offer an excellent opportunity to hear great traditional music done the way it should be.