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Phil Leadbetter

Philibuster – 1999 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Jonathan Colcord

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CDs by Phil Leadbetter

Many bluegrass instrumental recordings lack the spontaneity and soul of thiswork by dobroist Phil Leadbetter, a bluegrass sideman with Vern Gosdin, Grandpa Jones and now J.D. Crowe's New South.

Leadbetter is joined here by bandmate Curt Chapman on bass, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Scott Vestal on banjo, Richard Bennett on guitar and Rickie Simpkins on fiddle. Crowe also appears on two tracks. There is a looseness to this session, a feeling that these guys are having the time of their lives playing favorites running from straight bluegrass standards to old pop songs, jazz-inspired songs and a bit of gospel. Leadbetter possesses a style which rolls smooth, yet is not twangy. He includes a nice tribute to fellow dobro genius and idol Mike Auldridge with "House of the Rising Sun." Progressive turns and unexpected tempo changes make way for some melodic banjo and great guitar lines. A nice rendition of The Beatles' "Yesterday," leads into a firey version of Bill Monroe's "Big Mon." Another fun moment comes with "Happy Together," the old Turtles hit from the '60's. Some unexpected twists and turns drive this mysterious, familiar melody. David Grisman's "E.M.D" leans to the jazz side, incorporating the dobro into this mandolin classic. Finishing the recording is a jazzy, lonesome version of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."

This fine album was originally released on a small independent label in 1997. Hopefully it will now fall on the appreciating ears it deserves.