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Johnson Mountain Boys

Working Close – 1997 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Mark "Brink" Brinkman

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CDs by Johnson Mountain Boys

The Johnson Mountain Boys broke onto the bluegrass scene in 1981 and originally released this in 1983. On this CD reissue, their distinctive sound is carried mainly by the tenor of Dudley Connell. He had proven, even back in 1983, that he was one of the best voices that bluegrass had to offer. The sound draws heavily on the roots of bluegrass. Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers all have influenced the band's overall sound.

The instrumentation is straightforward and solid, not spectacular but effective with Eddie Stubbs doing some fine fiddle work throughout. The high point is the tight three-part harmony. This came to be the band's trademark. Of the two instrumentals, "Five Speed," with Richard Underwood, uses too many banjo cliches and is not very original sounding overall. "Granite Hill," is an upbeat mandolin tune written and played by David McLaughlin.

The band does a wonderful job with the old Stanley Brothers tune "Say You'll Take Me Back" and also the traditional "The Waves on the Sea." It is nice to see some of these older albums released on CD.