Jim & Jesse,
'Tis Sweet to Be Remembered
(Pinecastle, 2003)

One comes to this CD with a touch of sadness, since it's the final collaboration between the McReynolds brothers, whose careers have spanned over 50 years. Because Jim McReynolds was suffering from the cancer that killed him on the final day of 2002, you won't hear him singing on this CD, but his fine guitar work is in evidence, and there are also two remastered songs (one from 1981, another from 1996) on which you'll heard Jim's voice.

This final farewell is an effective one, and the disc is highly recommended to Jim & Jesse fans for more than just nostalgia. Charles Whitstein takes several of the vocal leads, as does Virginia Boy Luke McKnight, and they do a great job. The CD gets off to a tender start with the title track. Jesse takes the lead vocal on "As Long As I Live," a great weeper, as is "Standing at the End of My World," with Whitstein singing tenor. Just when you think you might cry all the way through the CD, along comes "Tennessee," one of the remastered songs, in which we hear Jim singing tenor. This version has more of a bluegrass sound than the original, and Charlie Louvin's voice is replaced by McKnight's.

The band is nice and tight on "Before I Met You," with a strong tenor by Virginia Boy bass player Matthew Allred. "Cora Is Gone" unfortunately shows us what's missing. McKnight does a nice job with the lead, but both Jim & Jesse's voices are so distinctive that a bit of the J&J sound is lost. The novelty song "Grin and Bear It" is next, followed by a solid "If You Need Me, I'll Be Around." There's some flashy mandolin work on "I Couldn't Believe It Was True," and a new song from Jesse's pen, "I Hope You're Lonely," fits neatly in that bluegrass/country slot that the McReynolds brothers made their own. Jesse's "Mississippi Moon" has a near-rock sound at the start, with some great fiddle work by (I assume) Glen Duncan, and a savage ending.

The final track is a remaster of a 1996 version of the J&J classic, "She's Running Wild," and it's great to hear Jim's voice one last time. His presence throughout this CD is almost ghostly, with a wisp of his guitar drifting in, and his voice heard only from years before. It's an evanescent farewell to Jim, but, fortunately, not to the act itself, which will continue as Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys. I'm glad, since Jesse has one of the best voices in bluegrass, not to mention his remarkable and highly influential mandolin style, and he sparkles in the jewel-like setting of this great, tight band. Long may he thrive!

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 10 October 2003

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