Plays And Sings Bluegrass

Tony Rice

Rounder, 1993

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


One look at Tony Rice's catalog and you will realize that this is an eclectic guy. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest guitar pickers in roots music and he has tried his hand at several styles of roots – blues, bluegrass, Americana, and folk. With Plays And Sings Bluegrass, he gets some friends together for a great collection that contains several gems. These aren’t just any friends either.  Some serious luminaries in the field lend their skills to this disc. Vassar Clements plays on fiddle, legendaries Jerry Douglas and Mike Auldridge stop by on dobro, Sam Bush is on the mandolin, and a couple of tracks feature the memorable and incomparable John Duffey with his high tenor harmonies.nbtc__dv_250

Rice took pains to resurrect several bluegrass songs from the first generation bluegrass artists and a couple that hail from the earliest period of recorded country music.  "I've Waited As Long As I Can" is a foot tapping opener that gets you into the bluegrass spirit right off the bat, complete with “G runs” and an excellent Tony Rice flatpicking solo, which is his trademark.  "How Mountain Girls Can Love" is an old Stanley Brothers tune that is given new life, and an old Bill Monroe song, "On And On" contains beautiful harmonies that rival the Father Of Bluegrass’ own version.  Rice sticks close to the bluegrass traditions with the choice of three songs penned by Lester Flatt, "Will You Be Loving Another Man?" (which Bill Monroe also co-wrote),"Ain't Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone," and "I'll Stay Around."

In addition to the songs about loving down home girls, there are also a few “story” songs that stand out.  "Brown Mountain Light," "Carolina Star," and "Galveston Flood" all evoke great imagery and John Duffey’s tenor on “Galveston” makes any bluegrass fan mourn his untimely death in 1996.  And lest anyone think that this is just a album of bluegrass cover songs, Rice pulls off one of the best versions of Bob Dylan’s oft covered "Girl From The North Country," which is well suited for the bluegrass genre.

Just about every song on this album is one that will make the listener instinctively tap his foot, and there are no throwaway songs to be found here.  Rice is known for his flatpicking guitar solos and nearly every song on this album showcases his phenomenal ability to some degree.  But the real star of this album is Rice’s smooth baritone voice, which sadly has been silenced by dysphonia, affecting his vocal cords.  He is still very active today with his guitar, but it is a shame that he can no longer sing as he does on Plays And Sings Bluegrass.

Rating: A

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