Bill Emerson

Bill Emerson and the Sweet Dixie Band

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As a soloist and a member of the Country Gentlemen, banjoist Bill Emerson has left his mark on the contemporary bluegrass scene, pushing country music's most conservative genre in fresh directions. Bill Emerson and the Sweet Dixie Band's self-titled album, however, sticks to the bluegrass basics, closer to tradition than the Country Gentlemen's 1972 classic, The Award Winning Country Gentlemen (though the band had a knack for making songs by Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot sound kind of conservative). Here, the approach is fairly straightforward bluegrass, with a number of vocalists (including Pete Goble, Darren Beachley, and Con Burch), offering renditions of traditional and contemporary material. Even today, however, Emerson still has a surprise or two to offer, the best being a solid take of John Prine's "All the Best" by the band with Gary Ferguson providing a solid vocal, and filled out with fine harmony vocals from Burch and Joe Wheatley (this is one of the several tracks on which Emerson does not appear on). The album ends, appropriately enough, with a lively Emerson original, an instrumental that allows him to leave the listener with some fine picking. For fans who have wondered what Emerson has been up to lately, Bill Emerson and the Sweet Dixie Band provides a simple answer: just playing a little music.

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