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Sideline

Colors & Crossroads – 2016 (Mountain Fever)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Sideline

Sideline features three familiar faces for bluegrass lovers. Steve Dilling played banjo for IIIrd Tyme Out for over two decades while his son-in-law, Skip Cherryholmes, played for over a decade with his family in Cherryholmes. Jason Moore started with the late, great James King and has played on more than 100 projects to date.

Dilling drives the intro of "You Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone" while Nathan Aldridge takes a break on fiddle, and Brad Hudson does the same on Dobro. Hudson is another veteran who plays a variety of instruments and has worked with artists like The Gaithers and Dolly Parton. Switching from the hard-driving "You Don't Know What You Got" to one of the most touching songs to come out in recent years, he plays guitar on Jimmy Fortune's "I Believe." He has to meet a high standard with Fortune and Jamie Dailey having sung this before him, but he stands beside them with an excellent tenor lead on this very special song.

Aldridge is joined by his brother, Brian, doing an excellent turn on mandolin and playing banjo as Dilling sings lead on "Beggar To Heaven." Dilling's hoarse voice fits this song with its drone-like interludes and may evoke memories of Dr. Ralph Stanley's "Man of Constant Sorrow." Brian, his father Mike and Dilling played together in the Bass Mountain Boys at the start of Dilling's career, and they reach back for a Bass Mountain Boys' number, "Bittersweet Memories of Home," classic bluegrass just like you would have heard in the '50s and '60s. Cherryholmes, known for his excellent guitar work, plays clawhammer banjo on an old standard, "Darlin' Corey." "Corey" has many recorded versions, but the arrangement of a solo clawhammer banjo with fiddle added after several measures fits this old song well. On all cuts you have Moore, an outstanding upright bassist, driving the song with his always-right playing.

Songwriting is not the first thought people have when they hear "Del McCoury," but "This Kind of Life" was composed by him and appeared on his 2011 "Take Me To the Mountains" CD. Another classic comes from country music, a song about one of bluegrass' consistent themes, lost love. On "The Blame," recorded by Highway 101, the band displays their harmony skills on this beautiful song. A very special treat is a Reno & Smiley number, "Unwanted Love," sung by guest Dudley Connell, the great singer from the Johnson Mountain Boys and the Seldom Scene. Also appearing as a guest (mandolin and Weissonborn guitar) and co-producing is Aaron Ramsey (Mountain Heart).

Mix experienced and excellent musicians and singers with good selections of music, and you produce a bluegrass CD that needs to be part of every fan's collection. They've hit the mark.