Osborne burns with "White Line Fever"
Friday, March 26, 2021
– Bluegrass giant Bobby Osborne, known as the voice of "Rocky Top," released a grassy version of Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever" today.
Producer Alison Brown said the track grew out of a recording session she gave Osborne for his 89th birthday in December. She thought the country classic would make a great bluegrass tune. To augment the rearrangement of Haggard's story of life on the road, Brown and co-producer Garry West asked Wilco's Jeff Tweedy to craft a new verse reflecting on Osborne's 60-plus year career.
Players on the track included Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Trey Hensley (guitar, harmony vocals), Sierra Hull (mandolin), Tim O'Brien (harmony vocals), Todd Phillips (bass) and Brown on banjo.
Osborne told The Bluegrass Situation, "When I first heard 'White Line Fever,' it was a ballad-type song. When Alison discussed it with me, she said she wanted to do it in a bluegrass style. It's a great song, and I enjoyed recording this version for Compass Records."
Brown said, "Merle Haggard cut 'White Line Fever' in late 1960s with a country feel, but it always seemed to me that it would make a great bluegrass song. With Bobby's incomparable vocals, and the addition of Jeff Tweedy's new lyrics about Bobby's Kentucky roots and Ohio ties, I think this version of 'White Line Fever' ticks every box for a bluegrass classic."
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One of the most celebrated of tenors, Bobby Osborne is a legend of bluegrass and country and has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than half a century. Osborne started as a bluegrass professional in the music's earliest years. With his banjo-wielding brother, Sonny, he plied his trade as an impressive mandolinist and lead singer, achieving popular success on country charts with "Ruby," "Once More," "Making Plans" and, of course, "Rocky Top. ...
Bobby Osborne is a name known to any serious bluegrass fan. The Osborne Brothers helped set the standard for bluegrass and were known to stretch the boundaries at times, such as adding electrified instruments to their recordings. This is not an effort to stretch boundaries. It's a labor of love because Osborne has a deep appreciation for the classic country sound.
The arrangements and instrumentation are top notch. The harmonies are great. The shock you must overcome is hearing Osborne's voice in this setting. ...