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Josh Williams

Down Home – 2010 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Josh Williams

It's more than a little bittersweet to note that this is one of the final releases on Pinecastle, which for some three decades prior to closing its doors on Feb. 1 was the epitome of the independent bluegrass label, dedicated to the integrity of traditional bluegrass.

The good news is that this solo release from Josh Williams (a former sideman for Rhonda Vincent, now on his own) is emblematic of the quality that Pinecastle has been known for through the years. Now entering his thirtysomething years, it's worth recalling that as a teenager Williams was a mandolin prodigy, often compared to his contemporary Chris Thile.

Yet, as "Down Home" amply demonstrates, he's stayed in a more traditional vein than Thile (an observation, not a value judgment), and has emerged as a guitar and vocal talent as well. Moreover, in a fashion reminiscent of the late Keith Whitley, he's able to hit that "sweet spot" between bluegrass and classic country - just listen to tracks like Streets of Bakersfield and Stealin' Away as proof that banjo and pedal steel can peacefully coexist.