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Alan Tompkins

No Part of Nothin' – 2012 (Bluegrass Heritage Music)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Alan Tompkins

Alan Tompkins is a native Kentuckian now living in Texas, working at his vocation as an attorney. He is also president of the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation. And, he's put together a very good bluegrass CD.

There are two key ingredients for making a good recording: talent and money, and money can help buy talent. In some genres, money buys "talent" in a sense by using electronics to disguise shortcomings, such as the use of pitch correction, but not here. His selection of musicians includes some of the top names in bluegrass, such as Ron Stewart, Greg Cahill, Mike Bub, Randy Kohrs, Ned Luberecki, Sam Bush and Kenny &Amanda Smith. The playing is top notch.

But great musicians can only do so much if they don't have good material. Tompkins includes an interesting mix of bluegrass, country, gospel and even rock. He and Gerald Jones (mandolin) penned two of the numbers. No Part of Nothin' Blues is a laid-back, swing number that provides proof that Tompkins holds his own on an upright bass. Blue Kentucky Waltz shows off his vocals, more of a balladeer than a bluegrass-roots singer (like Junior Sisk), but he gives you good listening material and this song has a traditional sound to it.

Two other instrumentals are the popular Angelina Baker (also known as Angeline the Baker) and the well-worn but still popular Lonesome Road Blues. They do a rousing job on both. Venturing into gospel, he offers an excellent version of Farther Along with the Smiths singing harmony. Alfred Brumley's This World Is Not My Home rocks along with a driving beat featuring breaks by Stephen Mougin (guitar) and Luberecki (banjo).

Tompkins ranges from the number Bill Monroe and Hank Williams wrote, I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome, giving it more of a Hank sound than Monroe, while Count Me Out was a big Marty Robbins hit from 1966. Tompkins does a fast moving version of it that loses the ballad sounds of Robbin's version. Perhaps the farthest reach is Dire Straits' When It Comes To You but it works surprisingly well with this arrangement.

You don't have to be a big name - Tompkins isn't - to make good bluegrass music.