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Marley's Ghost

The Woodstock Sessions – 2016 (Sage Arts)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Marley's Ghost

Northern California-based Marley's Ghost have produced a diverse sound for three decades with their mix of bluegrass, country, folk, blues, rock and gospel. On "The Woodstock Sessions," recorded at the famed Levon Helms Studios, the focus is on traditional songs with a few tunes recent enough to be tagged with composer credits.

The set kicks off with a spirited rendition of "Blind Fiddler" using the lyrics from Eric Anderson's 1966 version, delivered in a progressive bluegrass style that contrasts sharply with Anderson's stark acoustic guitar performance. Other bluegrass fueled tracks include "Oh Sweet Wind," the lone new composition by Marley Ghost's Dan Wheetman and producer Larry Campbell that fits nicely with the vintage material, and "In the Pines" featuring very non-traditional sounding keyboards.

Other relatively recent tunes are "Stone Walls and Steel Bars," the Roy Marcum/Ray Pennington song most identified with the Stanley Brothers, and the rockabilly tinged take on the Delmore Brothers' bluesy "Field Hand Man."

More traditional tunes give the band an opportunity to display their impressive range with "Ain't That Trouble in Mind" that has a Cajun feel, the gospel of "Run On For a Long Time" and "Prodigal Son" and old time folk with "The Unconstant Lover" and "Louisville Burglar."

The musicianship is solid throughout with Wheetman (acoustic guitar, banjo), Ed Littlefield, Jr. (pedal steel, acoustic guitar), Jerry Fletcher (accordion, harmonium, keyboards), Mike Phelan (Dobro, electric guitar, Oahu Hawaiian slide guitar), John Wilcox (mandolin) and producer Campbell contributing on multiple instruments including fiddle and resonator guitar. "The Woodstock Sessions" is filled with strong performances amidst well-chosen covers.