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Originally released on Lemco Records in 1969, Bluegrass Holiday was the first of many albums J.D. Crowe would record throughout his historic career. Built around an all-star lineup that included Red Allen on guitar and ... more »
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Originally released on Lemco Records in 1969, Bluegrass Holiday was the first of many albums J.D. Crowe would record throughout his historic career. Built around an all-star lineup that included Red Allen on guitar and vocals, a young Doyle Lawson on mandolin, and Bobby Slone on bass and fiddle, the album was originally intended as a souvenir piece for fans of the band and their legendary performances at the Holiday Inn in Lexington, Kentucky. But this recording, coupled with word-of-mouth praise, initiated the early acclaim that brought them bookings on the newly established bluegrass festival circuit and set Crowe's foot on the road to becoming a top bluegrass act.
The four bonus tracks, previously available only on 45, were originally cut for the King Bluegrass label shortly after the Bluegrass Holiday sessions.
On this long overdue reissue, many of the heavy echoes and surface noises of the original recording have been cleaned up by today's remastering technology, but the music is pure, straight-ahead bluegrass.
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Pure standard `grass, played superlatively, that was both en
J. Ross | Roseburg, OR USA | 05/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Playing Time - 41:03 -- Today, mention of a bluegrass holiday might conjure images of the many ocean cruises that now feature the music. Back in 1969, when this album was first issued on the Lemco label, "Bluegrass Holiday" referred to a venue where a fine band was holding down a regular gig at the upscale Holiday Inn in Lexington, Ky. The group included some of the best in the business -- J.D. Crowe (banjo, baritone vocals), Red Allen (guitar, lead vocals), Doyle Lawson (mandolin, tenor vocal), and Bobby Slone (bass, fiddle on "Orange Blossom Special"). While just a part-time group, word was getting around about them. Red Allen had replaced Bobby Morris who found it too trying to be on stage performing five or six nights a week.
Recorded on two days in late-1968, Bluegrass Holiday gave the band's fans what they wanted as a souvenir.... pure standard `grass, played superlatively, that was both endearing and enduring. Some have called that kind of fare "war horses," but I prefer to think of it as the bread-and-butter staple of the genre. That's probably why the Bluegrass Holiday LP was subsequently released again about 1981 by Rebel Records. They realized the impervious nature of these songs and the importance of this seminal record's moment in time that it captures. Slone is an exceptional fiddler and while that instrument is only featured on "O.B.S.," the talented and well-rehearsed quartet clearly illustrates how these songs were meant to be played in a traditional style. Of course, the banjo and mandolin are first-rate, as are the vocals. It doesn't get much better than Red Allen's lead singing, sandwiched with Lawson's tenor and Crowe's baritone, as they all gathered around a single mic at the Holiday Inn's Red Slipper Lounge.
With the 2007 release of this CD, the songs have been remastered, reordered, and the four bonus tracks that end the set were only previously available as 45-rpm singles on Bob Trout's King-Bluegrass label. These include Black Jack, You're Not Easy to Forget, Pike County Breakdown, and We'll Meet Again Sweetheart. As far as the original 12-song Bluegrass Holiday set goes, the new sequence doesn't really bother me much although I wouldn't have picked Woody Guthrie's "Philadelphia Lawyer" to open the CD (even though presented in driving 4/4 time like Rose Maddox used to). Perhaps it's just a minor criticism but that opener and the next selection, "Will You Be Satisfied That Way" don't have vocal harmonies. The LP's original opener, "Little Girl in Tennessee," was a much stronger piece to raise the curtain with. The resequencing decisions were made by producers Mark and Dave Freeman at Rebel Records based primarily on having them in ascending vestigial reverberation content, starting off with those songs that had been remastered to more cleanly fix and mitigate the original version's reverb. The Freemans' thinking was that you'd be less likely to notice the slight decline from track to track as the recording progressed. Liner notes and photography by Frank and Marty Godbey are a nice addition.
Athletic teams often do better on their home courts, and Lexington, Ky. was home field for Crowe. Bluegrass Holiday shows that J.D. and his Kentucky Mountain Boys had solidified as a cohesive unit and were certainly enjoying their well-deserved success fairly early in their illustrious careers. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)