Charlie Daniels

Songs from the Longleaf Pines

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Songs from the Longleaf Pines is Charlie Daniels' tribute to bluegrass-gospel -- a tribute album that covers two rarely touched-upon aspects of Daniels' music. He's recorded bluegrass numbers before, and his music certainly has been informed by it, but he's never done a full-fledged bluegrass record before and, apart from a low-budget collection in the early 2000s, he's never done an all-out gospel record. So, this is a first, which would be noteworthy in of itself, but the truly remarkable thing about Songs from the Longleaf Pines is that it's a lively, passionate, invigorating record that's his best album in quite some time. What makes the album such fun is that it captures a peerless musician playing with a peerless supporting group, including such stalwarts as Earl Scruggs, Ronnie McCoury, Rob McCoury, and Chris Thile. They have a natural, easy chemistry that's apparent on such sweet, slow numbers as "Softly and Tenderly," but truly comes to life on the breakneck jams that dominate this album. This is a band of veterans playing with a natural, offhand virtuosity that's all the more exciting for being easy and familiar. Perhaps this isn't the flashiest album Daniels has cut, or the rowdiest, but its low-key, modest charms make this a minor gem in his catalog.

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