Johnny Russell has an impressive resume as a songwriter. With this release, he shows he is also still one of the best pure country singers around.
Russell kicks it off with a bluegrass version of his signature tune "Act Naturally," a hit twice in the s60's by both Buck Owens and the Beatles. Russell is joined by Owens on vocals with some fancy picking by Earl Scruggs and Marty Stuart. Crystal Gayle joins Russell on "In A Mansion Stands My Love" and "Ain't You Even Gonna Cry," and Dolly Parton duets on "Making Plans." Other guest vocalists include Bobby Bare, Bobby Osborne and the Whites.
Russell is backed by a stellar lineup of country and bluegrass musicians, including Rob McCoury (banjo), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Josh Graves (dobro), Pig Robbins (piano), Buddy Spicher (violin), Terry Eldredge (guitar) and Benny Martin (fiddle). Some of the other standout tracks are the dark "40 Acres of Hell" and the ballads "Let's Fall To Pieces Together" and "Got No Reason Now For Going Home." This successfully combines the best elements of country and bluegrass and allows Russell a forum to showcase not only some of his best songs but his brilliance as a performer as well.