Perhaps the most famous fiddler in country music history and certainly the most gifted and adventurous of his generation, Vassar Clements's story is that of the genre's itself in the post-war decades. His dynamic career arc brought him from Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in the 1950s to the country-rock '70s with star turns on Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Grateful Dead, and Linda Ronstadt albums. Indeed, due to his undeniable dexterity with traditional fiddle modes and his penchant for wilder jazz explorations, Clements was one of the chief ambassadors in the '70s thaw between traditionalists and longhairs in Nashville.
20 FIDDLE TUNES & WALTZ FAVORITES collects instrumental sides from 1969 to 1972, the period just before his career explosion when Clements was plying his trade as a sideman in Nashville's cutthroat studio system. While the songs have little in common with his more famous, groundbreaking fusion work of the '70s (they are essentially by- -the-numbers studio country product), Clements's famously fleet chops are in evidence throughout the disc's 20 tracks. While not necessarily the best starting point for neophytes--for that, try HILLBILLY JAZZ or CROSSING THE CATSKILLS--20 FIDDLE TUNES & WALTZ FAVORITES will give hardcore enthusiasts an interesting snapshot of a genius on the verge.