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CROWE BROTHERS, Bridging the Gap-- In a career dating back to the 1970s, the Crowe Brothers have been consistently inspired, but in Bridging the Gap they have climbed the mountain with a work of traditional bluegrass at its finest, from the singing to the playing to the writing, one of the finest albums of its kind not only in the year of our Lord 2011, but in any year. Timeless, in a word.
RODNEY DILLARD, Don’t Wait For The Hearse To Take You To Church--You don’t particularly have to believe in Mayberry Values to enjoy Don’t Wait For the Hearse To Take You To Church, but when it’s all over you might want to; at the very least, you’ll be moved, regardless of whether you start rethinking your spiritual orientation, or lack thereof. Fully invested in their texts, Rodney, he of the clear, sturdy tenor, and Beverly, with an earthy alto, carry the vocal load with readings as deeply felt as they are lively and rhythmically charged.
HANK WILLIAMS, The Legend Begins: Rare and Unreleased/BUCK OWENS, Bound For Bakersfield, 1953-1956: The Complete Pre-Capitol Collection-- Hearing the first recordings of country giants on the order of Hank Williams and Buck Owens is a thrilling experience in and of itself, and two new releases offer exactly that--first recordings and the thrill of hearing these influential artists in their seminal stages. This enthusiasm, though, is tempered by the fact of most of this material--two of the three discs in the Hank set, the entire Buck disc--having been previously released, in the case of the Buck disc as lately as 2008. None of which makes the performances any less fascinating, even if the packages containing them are a bit less than essential.