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Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley Boys

Daylight's Burnin' – 2006 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley Boys

Hit the "play" button, close your eyes and go back two decades while listening to the Boys From Indiana. They were one of the best bands on the circuit at the time and a fan favorite. Unfortunately, their recordings are a rarity these days, almost all on LPs or cassette tapes, making this collection of songs especially welcome.

Aubrey Holt's songwriting skills are a prominent feature in this set, including several songs from their first record, "Atlanta Is Burning." The title track, "You Can Mark It Down," "Those Memories of Mine" and - a lament sounded by a lot of people today - "Play Hank's Songs Once Again" give a hint of why they were so popular.

Other members of the group included Harley Gabbard, Aubrey's uncle (they co-authored the well-known "Family Reunion") and Paul Mullins. This is topnotch bluegrass music, timeless, as relevant to the genre as it was 20 and 30 years ago.

But the story continues because Tony Holt and his great, young band, the Wildwood Valley Boys keep the music alive while adding their own touch. Their newest release features his dad (yes, that's Aubrey) on tenor vocals and Aubrey penned 8 of the 12 songs.

Matt Despain is an up-and-coming resophonic guitarist who can play with best of them, and Brian Leaver is an excellent banjoist and guitarist, contributing one of his own compositions, "Boilermaker." The band shines on this driving instrumental and all their backup work on this CD, but, good as the picking is, it's the singing and lyrics that will bring you back time after time. If you've ever lost a love, "What Happened To Ann" will stop you in your tracks. This is pure and sweet bluegrass.

Tony Holt carries on and builds on a great tradition, making his own path in bluegrass featuring great instrumental work, pure harmonies and touching lyrics.

A memorable collection from the past and a new CD connected by the thread of the Holt family, this is bluegrass at its best.