Josh McMurray

Pickin' Time

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Banjoist Josh McMurray proved that he had the goods when he joined veteran bluegrass player Larry Sparks on the road. On Pickin' Time, McMurray steps into the spotlight for a dozen instrumentals. He's joined by a handful of guests, including guitarist James Alan Shelton, fiddler James Price, and guitarist G.C. Matlock. The presence of at least two guests per cut and Randall Hubbard's bass guarantee that the arrangements are full but never overcrowded. Pickin' Time gets started with the only McMurray original, "Timber Tree," a piece that updates tradition without ever straying far from it. While cuts like "Lady of Spain" and "Sycamore Shoals" may resemble bluegrass, the careful pacing has more in common with old-time music. McMurray's spry take of Earl Scruggs' "Randy Lynn Rag," on the other hand, pays homage to bluegrass' best-known banjo player. Pickin' Time is commendable for several reasons. Most of the songs clock in at two or three minutes, meaning that McMurray and friends never overplay. It's also nice, if unusual, to listen to an instrumental album that doesn't add a guest vocal in hopes of radio play. McMurray sticks to what he does best on Pickin' Time, and bluegrass/old-time fans along with aspiring banjo players will appreciate this.

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