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Johnny Gimble

Celebrating With Friends – 2010 (CMH)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Johnny Gimble

It's no surprise that when former Texas Playboy fiddler Johnny Gimble is putting together a new record that the likes of Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard and even "Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor are more than happy to lend their vocal talents to the project.

What is so impressive is that Gimble, who joined Bob Wills' Texas Playboys in the late 1940s, is that at 83 years old, still never seems to miss a note. Studio trickery? Gimble's producer and Asleep at the Wheel bandleader Ray Benson trying to cover for a legend and a longtime friend? Hardly.

Gimble's fiddling glides as effortlessly as it has over the past seven decades from dance-hall waltz to honky tonk to pure western swing to jazz classics. Gill's low-key vocals shine on Somewhere South of San Antone, and it's a treat to hear granddaughter Emily Gimble sing on If I Had You. But Keillor's tribute Owed to Johnny Gimble - taken from an episode of "Prairie Home Companion" - is the crowning accolade to his lifetime of achievements.

With a National Heritage Fellowship, a couple Grammys, ACMs and CMAs and any number of other awards and honors, there's plenty to celebrate all right. But the best reason to celebrate? Gimble is fiddling as well as he ever has with no signs of slowing down.