Josh McMurray,
Pickin' Time
(Copper Creek, 2003)

Pickin' Time is the debut release from a new young talent from Tennessee. Josh McMurray is a 22-year-old with a solid capability for banjo playing, recognised by his peers and elders in the field. He has been playing with Larry Sparks for more than three years and is on Sparks' two most recent recordings, but he brought out this CD after numerous requests from his fans who wanted a solo recording.

He opens with his own composition, "Timber Tree," on which he's is joined by G.C. Matlock and Hunter Berry on guitar and fiddle. The rest of the album hass cover versions, arranged in his own particular style: a speeded up "Lady of Spain," instrumentals of Stephen Foster's "Swannee River," Mac Odell's "Cora Is Gone" and the gospel song "Joy Bells."

The influence on McMurray of the legendary Earl Scruggs is evident in his choice of tunes and to some extent, his style. One of the first tunes he picked out for this CD was the bluegrass classic "Cumberland Gap," citing Scruggs as a primary source. McMurray plays rhythm and lead guitar, too, but mostly is accompanied by either Matlock or James Alan Shelton; James Price provides fiddle on "Shortenin' Bread" and "Lady of Spain." J.D. Crowe also features in the choices of "Black Mountain Blues" and "Stoney Creek." The man himself provides glowing accolades to match those of Sparks, lauding McMurray's talent.

This is a fine foot-tappin' album with a familiar mix of standards, played in good style by McMurray and his fellow musicians. Any fan of the banjo or of bluegrass should be happy to hear this young player on recording or live. Don't be put off by the somewhat sombre cover photo; the serious McMurray may not smile for the camera, but his fingers can certainly dance. And that, after all, is the whole point.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 12 April 2003

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