Bluegrass, once geographically limited to the southern United States, has gone global. In 1999, Druha Trava traveled all the way from Czechoslovakia to play and record with Peter Rowan; in 2001, Maro Kawabata, born in Kyoto, Japan, has decided to tackle the bluegrass tradition. Carolina Blue finds Kawabata and a number of friends performing a traditional set that would have made Bill Monroe proud. The band kicks off the album with the instrumental "Sally Goodin," and then turns in a really nice version of "Used to Be." The song choices are a real plus throughout this album. There is a down-to-earth quality to Kawabata's approach to material like "Faded Love" and "When You Are Lonely" that renders them fresh. One of the best cuts and one of Kawabata's best vocals is on a bluegrass version of the country classic "Love Me Tonight." He receives help from a number of people, including bassist Missy Raines, fiddler Bobby Hicks, and vocalist/banjoist Keith Little. Several instrumentals give the band a chance to strut its stuff, and Kawabata shows that he's good flatpicker. His solos are bright and lively on both the title cut and "East Tennessee Blues." It may seem strange that once upon a time a 12-year-old boy from Japan found his life's inspiration by seeing Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys on television, but what of it? In music, the proof is in the delivery. Carolina Blue is an enjoyable release, and should be appreciated by fans of traditional bluegrass.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.