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Various Artists

Bluegrass 99 – 1999 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Jonathan Colcord

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For the fifth year, Pinecastle has grouped together a hot band of bluegrass pickers for their annual instrumental release. This year's lineup includes Blue Highway's IBMA award-winning dobro player Rob Ickes, Rickie Simpkins on fiddle and Mike Anglin on bass. Returning again are the core group of Scott Vestal on banjo, Wayne Benson on mandolin, and Jeff Autry on guitar.

The recording leads off with an almost too fast, but impressive version of "Monroe's Hornpipe" written by the late Bill Monroe. Following up with a great little guitar solo and some hot mandolin playing is Earl Scruggs "Lonesome Road Blues. One rarity is the nicely flat-picked "Sugar Foot Rag," written by Graham Townsend. Among the originals are Vestal's "Chesterfield," a jazzy-banjo driven tune with nice dobro. Vestal also penned a hot melodic, funky banjo groove with "Other Side Of The Tracks" on which the whole band struts their stuff.

Stylistically, the recording covers a lot of ground incorporating Irish melodies into such tunes as "Little Beggar Man," and "Little Darlin' Pal Of Mine." Several true classics are offered as well with perhaps the nicest instrumental version of "Amazing Grace" ever heard with beautifully soulful fiddle playing, and Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" to close the show. Perhaps a bit more on the traditional side than last years offering, this great grouping of songs is sure to please.