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Grassroots to Bluegrass
Mac Wiseman
Grassroots to Bluegrass
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop
  •  Track Listings (22) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Mac Wiseman
Title: Grassroots to Bluegrass
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Cmh Records
Original Release Date: 4/27/1990
Re-Release Date: 9/19/1994
Genres: Country, Folk, Pop
Styles: Bluegrass, Classic Country, Traditional Folk
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 027297904125

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CD Reviews

Good Old Songs in an Instrumental Showcase
Bill Swain | Lafayette, LA United States | 03/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Mac Wiseman's whiskey tenor voice has always belonged to the class of singers who provide the greatest long-term enjoyment to most of us: those whose distinctive intonation can't be mistaken for anyone else at any time. His performance on this bluegrrass compilation album, if a bit less "whiskey" than on some of his older singles, is nevertheless characteristically unique. He presents, with feeling and power, a good, representative list of historically important bluegrass songs, complete with a brief recollection of the history of each in the liner notes (CD).Wiseman's reputation in Nashville rests perhaps more on his skills as a recording producer than as a singer, and that talent shows through in this album. That's both a praise and a criticism. The performance is absolutely flawless, especially the instrumental performances; the arrangements are precise, planned and polished; the banjo riffs are frequently more new grass than grassroots bluegrass. The entire album exhibits none of the spontaneous rough edges that lend authenticity to the performances of traditional bluegrass groups, even the most popular of the groups that sustained the genre, first as part of the core of country music, and later while commercial country music began to take other directions.The real value in this album, the real life and vibrancy, rises from the work of dobro legend Buck (Uncle Josh) Graves, who offers, on this album, a clinic in the instrument's expressiveness. Graves' best work on this album (with a couple of exceptions) is not his solo work. Throughout the album, his dobro overlays the straightforward melodies with an emotion-laden counterpoint, sometimes dancing, sometimes crying, sometimes laughing, sometimes soaring and plummeting, but always elevating the music. That was, in fact, the hallmark of Graves' career--with Flatt and Scruggs, among others--and it's at its best on this album, flooding us with the full emotional essence of the songs. (Worthy of special attention are three hard-driving pieces, "It's Mighty Dark To Travel," "Wait For The Light To Shine," and "Light At The River," as well as some slower tunes with emotion-laden lyrics.)Part of the drama of Graves' performances may be owing to Wiseman's production talents. The audio mix on the album has Graves' dobro, both background and solo, a little louder than dobro is on most bluegrass productions. (Unamplified, it's typically a quieter instrument than those with the f-holes facing the audience.) And Graves often lays out of a portion of a song, occasionally waiting till the last verse to burst forth, adding emphasis to emotional expression. That kind of thing has the feel of a Wiseman production touch.Buck Graves--or Uncle Josh, if you prefer--is or should be an American music icon. Though his solos were novel and imaginative in their day, his place in dobro history is different from that of latter-day solo dobro virtuoso Jerry Douglas--but probably more important. Graves, alone and unrivalled, established the instrument in the bluegrass genre and made full use of its expressiveness to clothe melodic bluegrass frames behind the lead.Graves' classic dobro work makes the Grassroots to Bluegrass album well worth the price; but it would be, too, on the strength of Wiseman's performance, his direction, and his selection of historically relevant material."