various artists,
Gold Rush at Copper Creek
(Copper Creek, 2002)

The good folks at Copper Creek have yet another anthology of bluegrass and old-timey tunes, this time a two-disc set designed to showcase the myriad talents recording for the label. As I have observed elsewhere, these collections are designed to introduce the listener to a variety of new talent in a given genre, and hopefully to spur the new fan off in search of further work by artists whose tunes have found a receptive ear. Speaking globally, the range of performances on these discs suggests a gamut of possibilities in the presentation of bluegrass and old-timey music, from the acoustically lean, more traditional offerings to more contemporary reads mining some of the same ground being trod with such commercial success by Alison Krauss & Union Station.

There are 23 tunes on two discs, and as is my habit with anthologies, I will focus on those that accomplished their intended purpose; that is, to cause me to seek out more of a given artist's catalogue. As with other Copper Creek discs I have scanned, the technical side of the discs is clean and lean and slightly trebly, but this plays to a personal preference of "less is more" with traditional music for me anyway. In this, my third review of a Copper Creek product, I am beginning to see a uniformity of preference for certain acts over others. This is not to suggest that the other performances lack merit, but more nearly to underscore how strongly positive some of these new musical discoveries have been for me.

Tom, Brad & Alice offer two tunes (as do all artists on this sampler); by far my favorite is the prosaically titled "Rattler Treed a Possum," a splendid bit of traditional whimsy. Under the collective name of Jones & Leva, the treat of the disc is "Vertie's Dream," a haunting lament brilliantly sung by Jones, about whom I must learn more.

Keith Little and friends offer "Before the Prairie Met the Plow," a catchy two-step about Manifest Destiny, and the gorgeous voice of Ginny Hawker delights once again in a homage to the Carter Family, "I Loved You Better Than You Knew." Gary Brewer's short set includes the title-sez-it-all tune "Elvis on Velvet, Monroe on Grass" and the blues-tinged "Molly and Mildred," and the exquisite Kathy Kallick gives a solid read on "East Virginia," as well as one of the best versions of "Shady Grove" I've ever heard (adding to the two dozen or so I already have). Tony Ellis & Co. are off to the races with a fiddle and banjo-fueled "Long Journey Home," and old-time music gets a fresh new treatment at the hands of Roadside Theater in "There Was a Time."

In a tune all too topical for our times, Chris Brashear offers the sobering "Lost Soldier Son," and Dick Kimmel gives us a bit of the high wild and lonesome in his lean and spare rendition of "Waterbound." There are a few other curiosities, such as the quasi-lounge forays threaded through the version of "Wayfaring Stranger" offered by the Bluegrass Alliance, but by and large the collection is a solid showcase of the talent gathered together by the folks on Copper Creek. Pull up a chair, ease back and let your mind and heart run free.

- Rambles
written by Gilbert Head
published 3 May 2003

Buy it from