Although Steve Forbert has always proudly worn his folk influences on his sleeve, he's never been a slavish traditionalist either. That cross tie walking serves Forbert well here, his spectacular tribute to the songwriting and interpretive genius of country forefather Jimmie Rodgers.
Rather than dustily preserving Rodgers legend in sonic amber, Forbert and his ace band (including co-producer Garry Tallent, drum genius Bobby Lloyd Hicks, fiddler Ken Lovelace and guitarist Will Kimbrough) offer shimmering and breathing versions of the Singing Brakeman's potent songbook, capturing Rodger's spirit in favor of communing with his ghost. This comes through especially well in Forbert's John Fogerty-tinged spin on "Ben Dewberry's Final Run," his rollicking Buddy Holly take on "My Rough and Rowdy Ways" and the rootsy bliss of "Gambling Barroom Blues." There are moments where Forbert chooses to hew closer to Rodgers original musical intent ("My Carolina Sunshine Girl," "Waiting on a Train"), but even those arrangements sound vibrant and fresh.
While this might ultimately find more listeners among Forbert's fans than Rodgers', it is a splendid tribute that respects its subject enough to reinterpret his legend and showing just how his influence has paid off.