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Various Artists

Moody Bluegrass: A Nashville Tribute to the Moody Blues – 2004 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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By now, bluegrass fans have grown accustomed to their genre being hijacked to provide a novelty element for classic rock. However, this tribute to '60s/'70s prog rock heroes the Moody Blues triumphs because the 12 songs chosen are rendered without irony. Indeed, the instrumental exchanges by fiddler Stuart Duncan, mandolin master David Harvey, guitarist Tim May and banjoist Alison Brown, enhance the overall cosmic feel of these classic tunes.

By redrafting the English group's signature hits - "The Voice," "Your Wildest Dreams," "Nights in White Satin" - into bluegrass, the assembled musicians accentuate the ethereal madrigal feel of the lyrics. Further, the relatively lesser known, "Lovely to See You" and "Legend of a Mind" benefit from a subtle, yet pleasing New Age focus.

Smartly, the guest vocalists bring varied approaches to the material. Larry Cordle rends barroom wisdom from the ominous entreaties contained in "The Other Side of Life." John Cowan imbues "Never Comes the Day" with palpable '60s folk righteousness. Best of all, Harley Allen transforms "Ride My See Saw" into an enigmatic downhome anthem. The result is a creative and challenging set for those who like their roots music spiced up with a little psychedelia.