New Grass Revival

Friday Night in America

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On what would turn out to be New Grass Revival's final album, Friday Night in America, the band advanced their sound beyond their own previous pioneering. Their genre-busting brand of rocked-out progressive bluegrass is at its most rockin' -- almost bordering on hair metal with banjos. John Cowan's emotive vocals soar above the delicate picking of Bela Fleck's banjo and the occasional electronic drums or fretless bass. From this point, it is easy to see how effortlessly Fleck slipped into the prog jazz-grass of his Flecktones, particularly on the epic jam "Big Foot." Similarly, this jazzy noodling may be precisely why Sam Bush left the group for the earthier tones of Emmylou Harris' Nash Ramblers. Aside from the "historical document" element of the album, there are some fine moments, particularly the hits "Callin' Baton Rouge" and "You Plant Your Fields." While songs like "Angel Eyes" sound almost like the members of Mr. Big couldn't find their guitars so they picked up mandolins and fiddles, fans of contemporary country and tight instrumentation will want to pick this up.

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