While the extraordinary fiddler Vassar Clements is known for his countless recordings in the world of bluegrass and country music, he's also a convincing blues interpreter. He is matched with a wide-ranging group of musicians and repertoire by producer David Grisman in this delightful Acoustic Disc CD. Clements' playing takes on an almost conversational tone throughout a good part of these sessions, while he is obviously having a rollicking good time with his fellow players, no matter the setting. The legendary bluesman Robert Johnson's "Beatrice Got a Phonograph" is an amazing duet by Clements with Roy Rogers (who sings while playing an amplified Martin guitar), though it is the leader's personal sound that leaves a lasting impression. His fiddle almost seems to smirk throughout Tampa Red's "Dead Cats on the Line," which is also highlighted by Bob Brozman's guitar and Bobby Cochran's lead vocals, with Norton Buffalo providing harmony. It's hard to beat the interplay between Clements, Buffalo (on harmonica), and guitarist Bob Brozman in the trio rendition of "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning." Clements and Brozman evidently concocted "Fiddlin' and Faddlin'" in the studio, with Brozman also playing percussion on his guitar behind the leader's blistering introductory solo. Elvin Bishop adds a touch of humor with his amusing originals, including the down-home blues "Dirty Drawers" and the funky "That's My Thing," adding Norton Buffalo's soulful harmonica. Maria Muldaur's gritty vocals shine in Doc Watson's "Honey Babe Blues" and "I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle." Dave Matthews is at the piano for the infectious "Mambo Boogie" (co-written by Clements, Matthews, and Buffalo). All in all, this is a very entertaining meeting by a group of seasoned musicians.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden