Kicking Up Dust
(Rural Rhythm, 2011)

Grasstowne is a fascinating blend of the old and the new, a mixture of hard-driving banjo and fiddle-driven bluegrass and acoustic Americana. Co-leaders Alan Bibey and Steve Gulley are veteran players, Bibey putting in time with the New Quicksilver, lllrd Time Out and BlueRidge while Gulley played guitar and sang with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and Mountain Heart.

These guys, then, have apprenticed with the best -- and now, with Grasstowne, they have turned from students to mentors, bringing the three young players in the band along as we imagine Doyle Lawson, Ronnie Bowman and Dan Timinski brought them along.

So, how's the music this combination of vets and newbies puts out? In a word, marvelous. They play well, sing well and write well and know how to choose good songs from other writers: "I Don't Worry About You Anymore" comes from The Pinnacle Mountain Boys, led by Steve Gulley's father, and was originally recorded in the 1950s. Grasstowne doesn't try to update it but instead revels in its '50s bluegrass format. It's a great performance that never sounds old while paying homage to the tradition. "Old Time Way" is a newer song that still reflects the old traditions. In this one, the harmonies make it new. When they turn to originals, the quality remains the same. "Run" is about the hardest driving banjo- and mandolin-propelled tune you'll hear in a long time. In fact, there are no bad songs here.

What it boils down to is this: Grasstowne is the real thing and Kicking Up Dust is one fine album.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

11 June 2011

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