Tony Ellis

Sounds Like Bluegrass to Me

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Although banjoist Tony Ellis got his start as one of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, in his subsequent solo work he has often explored quieter terrain, as he did on the sweet and lovely Farewell My Home, an album he made with his son Bill, and which stayed about as far away from the driving sounds of bluegrass as you can get while still playing three-finger style banjo. On this album Ellis is back in the bluegrass fold, working through a program of potboiler material with an all-star band featuring Dudley Connell on guitar, Lester Woodie on fiddle, and Tom Gray on bass. The playing and the songs are all great; it's always fun to hear tunes like "Long Journey Home" and "Nine Pound Hammer," even if they have been done to death, and the group harmonizes convincingly on "The Old Cross Road" and "Man of Constant Sorrow." The problem is the production, which is muffled and flat throughout the album -- it sounds as if these performances were recorded in someone's living room on a four-track cassette recorder. That's too bad; the performances are lots of fun.

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