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Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show

The Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show – 1999 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show

"Retro" is often used as a dismissive tag when referring to a musical act, but Karl Shiflett wears it proudly - in fact, the liner notes to his Rebel debut start right off by describing it as the best word to use. A Texan by birth, Shiflett put together a band intent on capturing down to the last detail the sound, look and performance style of early bluegrass artists, especially Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, and they do the job quite well.

What sets this apart from a simple recap, though, is the verve and zest with which Shiflett and company tackle the job and the selection of material. Though there are several well-known favorites ("Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" and "I Know What It Means To Be Lonesome"), the remainder are mostly less familiar ("Gonna Have Myself A Ball," "The One I Love Is Gone"), or else originals penned by Shiflett, band members Jake Jenkins and Lyle Meador, and early (and under-appreciated) bluegrasser Monroe Fields, who makes a guest vocal appearance as well.

With Karl's son Kris and fiddler Kirk Brandberger rounding out the crew, the group tackles this engaging selection with a lot of energy, and it really pays off. Fans who bemoan the lack of traditional bluegrass these days need look no further.