Pickin' On

Pickin' on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Deja Blue Grass

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This is more like Deja New Grass. While this second volume of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tunes to receive the Nashville bluegrass treatment features many of the genre's finest session players -- among them David West, Jay Dee Maness and Gabe Witcher -- to call these treatments of the classic rock quartet's best-known tunes "bluegrass" is stretching the definition of the genre to fissure and fracture. Case in point: how may other bluegrass records do you own that feature tabla drums and bongos? In fact, the serious improvising that goes on inside these tunes -- check the beautiful mandolin solo in "Southern Man" for a small example, or the vamp and solo flourishes in "Pre-Road Downs" on disc one -- feels more like acoustic jazz than it does southern string band music. That said, this is all arranged and played beautifully, though hearing banjos carrying the melody lines on "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," and mandolins stinging out the lyric on "Love the One You're With," are a bit disconcerting, at least initially. "Almost Cut My Hair" feels more like an Indian raja, and "Helplessly Hoping" feels more like a wide-open country interlude complete with whining pedal steel. So, while the breakdowns are few and far between, this is still an engaging listen and much more than a novelty record.

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