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Following the release of Dolly Parton's The Grass is Greener a few months ago on Sugarhill Records , a long overdue renewal of interest in bluegrass took place. The old time country of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and even Dolly has long been an accepted staple to the musical diet of most, but listening to bluegrass is often considered a taboo and a line not to be crossed. I personally challenge any taker to give the two new releases (well one is a prerelease) by Sugarhill a spin and feel confident that they will walk away a believer.

Mandolin aficionado, Alan Bibey's new release In the Blue Room is a wonderful showcase of his unique mandolin style. Blending the instrumental with the vocal song, Bibey has created a thoroughly enjoyable disk. Strongest when doing the instrumental, Bibey has the range of a maestro. From the subtle beauty of "Lee's Reel" to the kinetic energy of "Wild Fiddler's Rag," Bibey shows a grace and style as unique as that of David Grisman. "Save Your Heart" is another highlight and an example good traditional song writing, pure and simple. With the one sentimental misstep of "What I Am, " Bibey's new disk is an enjoyable listen through and through.

And yes, I neglected to mention that the great Tony Rice plays guitar on a number of tracks on the above CD which leads us into the next Sugar Hill release Skaggs and Rice - The Essential Old-Time Country Duet Recordings. This recording was originally issued in 1980, but is a new discovery for me with its prerelease For fans of sixties country and bluegrass alike, this disk is a must have with its blend of the two genres.

The mandolin of Ricky Skaggs and the guitar Tony Rice complement each other so perfectly one would think the two were childhood buddies. They just seem so at home with one another. These too country icons exchange vocals and licks throughout, creating a seamless recording. With Skaggs and Rice, joy is found in the simplicity of the song played and sung without embellishment. The disk is completely acoustic and filled with a collection of beautiful traditional numbers that have never seen stronger arrangements.

As an aside I'll mention that the latest by the Seldom Scene - Scene it All on the Sugar Hill Records label as well is not to be missed. Can this label go wrong?

- Robert Lanham

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[email protected] | May 2000 | Volume 5