Although he is less well known than bluegrass pioneers Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, the irascible Jimmy Martin has done as much as either to shape the sound of the genre, almost single-handedly developing what can only be termed honky tonk bluegrass. Martin is stubborn and brilliant, a rebel playing a style of music that favors tradition and only reluctantly abides innovation, and his larger than life personality has probably made him as many enemies as friends. But acknowledged or not, Martin's stamp is everywhere in contemporary bluegrass, and his impact on country music as a whole is also not to be underestimated. This tribute to Martin is rather special because it brings together four skilled musicians who all got their start as members of Martin's backup band, the Sunny Mountain Boys. Banjo players J.D. Crowe and Kenny Ingram, along with mandolin players Audie Blaylock and Paul Williams, join forces here to produce a surprisingly consistent and cohesive album. Their immersion in Martin's music is complete, which means they actually sound like a band (with Blaylock handling most of the lead vocals) rather than stars taking turns at the microphone, as is the case with most tribute affairs. Among the highlights here are versions of "Doin' My Time," "Ocean of Diamonds," and a marvelous rendition of A.P. Carter's "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes." Also worth mentioning is the version here of Martin's wise and cautionary "God Guide Our Leader's Hand," which is timeless in its call for careful consideration in all things political.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett