Jim Mills,
My Dixie Home
(Sugar Hill, 2002)

Jim Mills has been making the rounds of several bluegrass bands (I first saw him when he was with Doyle Lawson), and he's currently with Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder, an multi-award-winning collection of prime instrumentalists. With this solo outing, Mills has a perfect showcase for his banjo chops, and the CD should appeal to all fans of traditional bluegrass. Mills has put together a great group of musicians, including Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Dan Tyminski on guitar, Adam Steffey on mandolin and Barry Bales on bass, with Tyminski, Ricky Skaggs, Tim O'Brien and Paul Brewster contributing vocally.

Nearly all of the 12 tracks are worth repeated listening. The title track kicks things off in style, followed by a medley of "Train 45," "Sally Goodin" and "Mama Blues," which boasts not only sensational solos by Mills, but an absolute gem of a fiddle solo by Duncan, whose playing just gets tastier and tastier, as may also be seen in his work in "Black Jack," a J.D. Crowe tune.

Ernest Tubb's "Are You Waiting Just For Me" makes for an ideal bluegrass vocal that shows why Tyminski is one of the best lead voices in bluegrass -- a voice strong as a mule, clear as mountain air and with perfect intonation. There's not a whole lot of variety in Dock Boggs' "Country Blues," and it gets a bit long as a result, though Mills' banjo work is a glory to behold. Brewster shows off a fine singing voice in "Will You Be Satisfied," and there's a dandy vocal duet between Tyminski and Brewster on "Goin' Back to the Blue Ridge Mountains." The album comes to a sweetly bluesy close with "I'll See You in My Dreams."

Mills' notes on each track are interesting and fun, and his playing is impeccable throughout. My only grump is that the CD is too brief at only 35 minutes. I don't demand that CDs be filled to the max, but a few more tracks would have been welcome. Still, we take what we can get, and this is a terrific, if brief, example of the summit of traditional, straight-ahead bluegrass.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 21 December 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.