Thirty years ago, long before the "O Brother" craze, the original "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" ignited widespread interest in the same bedrock country music that untold thousands flocked to see and hear in the "Down From The Mountain Tour" over the last year. It might not be too much of a stretch to say "Circle I" was the first Americana album. 1989's "Circle II" met with similar success, winning an award or two of its own.
With the two-disc "Circle III," the Dirt Band invites the inevitable comparisons, and some will argue passionately whether or not it's "true" to the spirit of its venerated predecessors, and most of them will miss the point. Like the first two, "III" stands on its own as thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, and it's totally unnecessary to own either "I" or "II" to appreciate it on that basis.
There are, of course, plenty of folks returning from the first two, but plenty of new faces as well - Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Taj Mahal, Iris DeMent, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam and Matraca Berg (Berg's duet with Emmylou Harris on "Oh Cumberland" is one of many highlights). Don't buy it because it's historic, or part of a "collector's set." Buy it because it's great music.