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Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys

New Horizons – 2004 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Greg Milliken

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CDs by Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys

Jesse McReynolds' first solo album was produced late last year, not long after the death of his brother, Jim. As Jim & Jesse, the duo recorded an adventurous blend of bluegrass, country, and even rock 'n' roll, for more than 40 years. Jim's passing left Jesse wondering whether he could ever perform again.

It's good news for all lovers of traditional music that he elected to carry on. Throughout this, McReynolds just flat sings the stuffing out of an engaging mix of bluegrass, honky-tonk, and folk numbers. This isn't over-the-top vocalizing; in fact, it's a rather subdued, somewhat melancholy work. But McReynolds is a master of melody, nuance and harmony, and he finds ways to stamp each song with moments of beauty. The album opens with a blues guitar lick that segues into a jazzy version ofthe Delmore Brothers' "There's More Pretty Girls Than One." On the heels of that classic comes the Dan Seals honky-tonker "I Won't Be Blue Anymore." Other standout cuts include a chills-down-your-spine reading of "In The Pines" and beautiful takes on "Faded Love" and Pee Wee King's haunting "My Main Trial Is Yet To Come." McReynolds gets great backing from the Virginia Boys, featuring his grandson Luke McKnight, and he's joined by John Prine on the final number, Prine's "Paradise."