Bad Livers

The Ridgetop Sessions

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Bad Livers started as a fairly straight, although quite progressive and somewhat irreverent, bluegrass band. Over the course of six albums, they got progressively more experimental, alienating many of their more purist fans. Well, those fans should seek out The Ridgetop Sessions: a living-room session featuring just Danny Barnes on banjo and vocals and Mark Rubin on bass and vocals. That's it. It was recorded in Rubin's living room, with a single microphone run straight to a DAT recorder. As such, this is the type of performance that could have taken place at any point in the last 50 years -- just a couple good old boys sangin' and playin'. They play songs off their albums, a couple choice covers (Sun Ra!), and a great medley of Don Stover's "Black Diamond" paired with Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk." These are relaxed, very informal sessions, but not at all sloppy. As usual, Barnes' banjo playing is great, and Rubin always gives great support. The set is capped off with a live track recorded several years earlier that also features former Bad Liver Ralph White on fiddle. No revelations here, just a damn fine, stripped-down set from one of the finest and most interesting bluegrass acts of the '90s.

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