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McPeak Brothers

Yesteryears: The Best of the McPeak Brothers – 2011 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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There are a lot of very good to excellent bluegrass groups on the circuit or playing regionally today. When you listen to the McPeak Brothers you'll be sorry they are not among them.

Brothers Dewey, Larry and Mike McPeak spent, by their own account, grueling hours practicing to become craftsmen, and it shows in their playing and singing. Their harmonies are as good as any you'll hear and their backup musicians would go on to become famous in their own right: Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, Rickie Simpkins and Jeff Midkiff were all involved in these projects. Dewey plays banjo, Larry plays bass and Mike plays guitar on all the cuts.

"Yesteryears" is a compilation from three albums made between 1977 and 1983. If you've been around bluegrass for awhile you may be reminded of another group from that era, The Boys From Indiana, both in their sound and song selection.

Bend In The River is a Marty Robbins song, painting a picture of a man who will always be restless, looking for something hidden by the next bend. The minor chords lend a sense of loneliness to the song and their version is just a bit more uptempo than Robbins'. Shelly's Winter Love is a Merle Haggard song that's been around in bluegrass since the brothers did it. Rickie Simpkins' and Jim Buchanan's twin fiddle tracks and a high harmony part make this one of best tracks on the CD.

They include some upbeat, driving songs, too. Back To Dixie (Goble - Drumm & Lawson) is a catchy, and Dewy sounds a little like Doyle Lawson as he sings it. Livin' With the Shades Pulled Down, another song recorded by Haggard and co-written by Haggard and Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, is moves right along in a startling resemblance to another Bryants' number, Rocky Top.

From The Last Time, a Civil War lament, to Simon Crutchfield's Grave. a song of betrayal, there's not a throwaway song here. This is just fabulous bluegrass music.