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Roland White

I Wasn't Born to Rock N Roll (digital) – 2010 (Tompkins Square)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Roland White

A bluegrass mandolin standard bearer, Roland White took the long road. Born in northern Maine, White found the bluegrass bug after moving to California. A founder of The Kentucky Colonels, White played with both Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt prior to recording this album, originally released in 1976. By then a member of The Country Gazette, White called on band mates to record this, which is repackaged on CD for the first time.

This invigorating bluegrass album is filled with spirited picking and singing. While White may not have the most blatantly powerful bluegrass voice, he is a more than capable front man. Where he most impresses is playing the mandolin, and throughout the recording, there is evidence that White - as far back as when this was recorded - was taking bluegrass mandolin to places not previously explored.

The County Gazette - according to White's brief notes accompanying this reissue - featured most of these songs in their live shows. The cohesion of the group comes through in the creative and tight arrangements of the songs, most of which will be familiar to the most casual listener. However, the band never sounds restrained or conservative in their approach.

Alan Munde banjo playing is impressive throughout the 41-minute disc and his rolls, fills, and backups are clearly ascertained in the mix.

Highlights include the medley Marathon containing snippets of standards including Shackles and Chains, Live and Let Live and Doin' My Time and an enduring Clarence and Roland White banjo tune, Powder Creek. Kept off the original release, She is Her Own Special Baby is restored to close the album.

For those wanting to explore Roland White's bluegrass history, this remarkable debut is essential.