Jeff White

Right Beside You – 2016 (Jeff White Bluegrass)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Jeff White

Alison Krauss was still only 18 when her 1989 release "Two Highways" confirmed her as a major breakthrough talent. Pictured with her at in the cover photograph, at the far right is the triple-threat singer, guitarist and songwriter Jeff White, one of the earliest members of her band, Union Station, and a talent on whom she relied heavily. After leaving Krauss, White signed on as part of Vince Gill's stage band, a gig which he continues to hold. Along the way over the past quarter-century and more, the credits on his resumé have included stints with Patty Loveless and Lyle Lovett.

After putting out a pair of well-received solo releases on Rounder in the late 1990s, White finally returns on his own in fine, self-produced style here with a dozen tracks that, while highlighting his own writing talents, also display a keen sense of and admiration for the traditions behind the music he has excelled at for more than three decades.

The opening "Run Little Rabbit Run" comes from David "Stringbean" Akeman, the clawhammer banjo wizard whose career stretched from the Opry in the 1940s into the "Hee Haw" era of the late 1960s. "Travelin' This Lonesome Road" salutes Bill Monroe, of course, and "Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow" is right out of the Carter Family catalog, and all are faithfully arranged and performed. White enlists the help of The Chieftains for "Pretty Saro," hauntingly demonstrating the Celtic roots of bluegrass and old country music. Perhaps the best of these "throwback" tracks, though, is "Wise County Jail," a tune by Dock Boggs, a banjo picker who heavily influenced the renaissance of old time music in the early 1970s.

"Carry Me Across The Mountain" was co-written with John Pennell, also an early Union Station alum, and it's a testament to motherly devotion in the face of daunting odds. "Blue Trail Of Sorrow" is a classic tune of heartbreak and loss, and if "The Cold Hard Facts" sounds familiar, it's because it's the title track of a Del McCoury release of some two decades ago that White co-wrote with Del's son, Ronnie.

To gauge how highly White is esteemed in the Nashville community requires only a brief glance at the cast backing him up. It's an astonishing array of "A-listers" that, no surprise, includes Gill. Having recently stepped into the "Curly Seckler" role as part of The Earls of Leicester, it's also no surprise that White is joined by all of his fellow "Earls," including, of course, Jerry Douglas. Though he doesn't often step out on his own, White is one of those premier sidemen whose turns in the spotlight are more than worth the wait.