With music such as this there is always the conflict between the desire to insure optimum recording sound by working in a studio environment and the urge to capture live excitement by setting up the microphones right in the club. In the case of an artist such as fiddler Stoneman, who fits in the category of beyond fabulous but under-produced, the release of live tapes such as those that make up this album is a cause for celebration. Stoneman was known to compare his own playing to snakes, which the listener is free to interpret. Squirmy things aside, he is definitely the bluegrass fiddler most often carted out when pundits are trying to prove that players from this genre do indeed go as far out as the jazz guys. The live recordings are really the proof positive. These sets with backup from the Kentucky Colonels make a lot of commercial bluegrass releases seem downright anemic. Despite originating as monaural recordings, with an impression of the microphone being squished under someone's beer pitcher, the end result is a full-blooded bluegrass sound that comes at you like two piggy-backed 18-wheelers, the fiddler's long, syncopated phrases hopping back and forth across the bar lines as if the driver was enjoying his CB radio conversation so much he wasn't bothering with niceties such as lanes. And that really sums it up. This is bluegrass that doesn't stay in the lane, and it is a shame there isn't more of it.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne