He's not a household name in bluegrass circles like Bill Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs, and he's not a break-out darling of the roots-appreciation crowd like Ralph Stanley. But among the bluegrass cognoscenti, Chris Jones' name is spoken with something like reverence; not only is he a very fine rhythm and lead guitarist and a gifted songwriter, he is also one of the few bluegrass singers who has managed to forge a sound all his own while remaining firmly in the stylistic mainstream. Part of what makes his sound personal and unique is the fact that he sings in a low and mellow register -- more Jim Reeves than Del McCoury. But it's also in the emotional depth of his songs and the the way he takes straight-ahead instrumentation and arrangements and presses them into the service of chord progressions that are much more complex than you'll generally hear in bluegrass. This collection pulls together tracks from three albums he recorded for the venerable Rebel label between 1997 and 2000 (No One But You, Follow Your Heart, and Just a Drifter), plus three tracks from the self-released Cloud of Dust and three new recordings. The program consists mostly of Jones originals but also includes a few bluegrass and honky tonk classics, like the Delmore Brothers' "Nashville Blues" and the Louvin Brothers' lovely gospel song "Whispering Now" (not to mention the occasional slight oddity, such as the Gordon Lightfoot number "Ribbon of Darkness"). While longstanding fans will already own much of this material, Lost Souls & Free Spirits offers newcomers an excellent introduction to one of bluegrass music's richest talents.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson