Celebrating with Friends

Johnny Gimble

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Celebrating with Friends Review

by Jeff Tamarkin

Johnny Gimble is one of the most accomplished and beloved fiddlers in country music history, but he's released relatively few recordings under his own name considering that he's spent some seven decades in the business. The self-descriptive Celebrating with Friends may, however, go down as the definitive statement among his solo efforts; a tribute to both Gimble's songwriting and fiddling, its biggest selling point is undoubtedly the participation of marquee names like Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, and Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson, but the star of the album is undeniably Johnny Gimble. Gimble, despite being an octogenarian at the time of the album's release, has retained a youthful spring in his playing and his vocals as well. Regardless of who else appears on a given track (the last, incidentally, is a Garrison Keillor Prairie Home Companion tribute from 1994, "Owed to Johnny Gimble," with Gimble on fiddle), when Gimble's bow touches the strings, that track comes to life. Of course, it's enjoyable to listen to Nelson (on the Gershwins' "Lady Be Good"), Hag ("Sweet Georgia Brown"), and the others interacting with the leader, but overall the "friends" do what they're supposed to do: reaffirm that it was Johnny Gimble who contributed so much of the swing to Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys' Western swing and remind listeners that he's still at it.

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