Reno & Smiley

Together Again

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Banjoist Don Reno and guitarist/lead singer Red Smiley formed a formidable bluegrass duo from the early '50s until they amiably went their separate ways in 1964. In 1971 the duo's paths crossed once again, leading to the recording of Together Again, a little gem of an album. At a little over 30 minutes, the album will seem a bit short by 2006's standards (though lots of bluegrass groups still record 30- to 45-minute albums), but fans, glad to have it on vinyl in 1971, will be glad to have it out again on CD. The recording is real old-school, meaning the recording is mono and that even with modern polishing, screechy high notes remain. For people who like their bluegrass rough around the edges, however, these shortcomings complement Reno & Smiley's mountain style: Together Again is shot through with authenticity. If the album has a real weakness, it's that best tracks -- "Highway 52," "A Dime Looks Like a Wagon Wheel," and "Emotions" -- are frontloaded. It's also interesting to note the inclusion of "Soldier's Last Letter," an old pro-war song proudly played by Reno & Smiley as the Vietnam War raged on. Today, however, Together Again will be cherished for its bluesy bluegrass, fancy picking, and fine country harmonies.

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