Muleskinner

Muleskinner

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How smart are the major labels, such as Warner Bros.? In the early '70s the company had the rights to this totally historic recording by one of the finest lineups in the history of bluegrass, at least from the perspective of the young, progressive (read: hippie) players of the time. Five years later, the Warners Bros. geniuses had let the Muleskinner album go out of print and the dinky bluegrass label Ridge Runner got the rights to reissue it. The resulting printing and layout job, despite a touching tribute to the late great bandmember and bluegrass giant Clarence White, was ironically tacky enough to pass for one of the self-produced sides made up for on-stage sales in the '50s by the cutting-edge early-bluegrass bands who had been so influential. At any rate, the interplay between fiddler Richard Greene and banjoist Bill Keith unlocks harmonic doors inside the old bluegrass mansion, with White and the masterful Peter Rowan providing a wall of rhythm guitar whose strength makes a mockery of the word "acoustic." Fans of the Jerry Garcia bluegrass explorations will want to find this set, as it goes in many of the same musical areas, but with an intensity of invention far beyond the efforts of the grateful bluegrasser. This album also represented one of the first uses of a drum set on a bluegrass album.

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