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Bill Emerson

Bill Emerson and the Sweet Dixie Band – 2007 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Bill Emerson

Bill Emerson's name is as widely recognized among bluegrass enthusiasts as Earl Scruggs. His tenure goes back to the mid '50's, formative years for bluegrass and, as a founding member of the Country Gentlemen, he had a hand in guiding this music during those early years.

The supporting cast here is impressive: Tony Rice, Jimmy Gaudreau, Paul Williams, Wayne Taylor, Dudley Connell and the list goes on. The singers and musicians are impeccable. The music is great from start to finish with touching ballads like "There's No Room Inside Your Heart" and "Yard Sale," a gospel number, "Beautiful" and nods to tradition including Paul Williams singing "Hills of Roane County."

This being a banjoist's album, though, part of the "resurgence of his bluegrass career," you might expect a lot of hard-driving instrumentals and traditional numbers. Surprisingly, there's only one instrumental, but it's a good one with Emerson leading the charge on his "Three Day Beard and a Rusty Jeep." Only three other numbers fall outside a laid-back sound, including "Cold Sheets of Rain," penned by the late Randall Hylton.

Emerson is an icon, one of the best in bluegrass. Hopefully, this is just the start of the rekindling of his bluegrass journey.