Roland White

I Wasn't Born To Rock'n Roll

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Mandolinist Roland White is a bluegrass lifer. As a youth, he rounded up his siblings, including younger brother Clarence, to start the Kentucky Colonels, who helped spearhead the West Coast bluegrass revival in the ‘60s. Guitar hero Clarence went on to make country-rock with the Byrds, while Roland played with legends like Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt, as well as Country Gazette and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. But while White has released a few latter-day solo albums, his 1976 outing, I Wasn't Born to Rock ‘n Roll, remained in the shadowy world of lost vinyl for 34 years before finally being reissued. It's a solidly old-school effort, where White takes on tunes like Flatt & Scruggs' "If I Should Wander Back Tonight" and the Carter Family's "The Storms Are on the Ocean," as well as an epic-length (for bluegrass, anyway) medley entitled "Marathon," which includes pieces of everything from Jimmie Davis' "Shackles & Chains" to Merle Travis' "Nine Pound Hammer." There's a fresh, spontaneous feel to it all that's absent from too much 21st century bluegrass; while White never goes for any showy licks, he sings and plays with what sounds like every ounce of his heart and soul. He was on the front lines alongside some of the men who invented bluegrass, and he doesn't treat these trad tunes like museum pieces, but rather like urgent messages about the raw emotions at the center of American roots music. Of course, he probably felt closest to the lone original tune here, the minor-key instrumental "Powder Creek," written in the ‘60s with Clarence, who was killed when both brothers were hit by a car in 1973.

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