Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Country, Pop, Rock
The Grass Series is a nifty CD collection that blends different popular artists and musical styles from the past few decades with bluegrass music. Everyone will enjoy this exceptionally produced Grass Series performed with... more »
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The Grass Series is a nifty CD collection that blends different popular artists and musical styles from the past few decades with bluegrass music. Everyone will enjoy this exceptionally produced Grass Series performed with authentic bluegrass instruments by some of Nashville's top musicians. AeroGrass includes 12 Aerosmith songs performed in the bluegrass style.
Bluegrassers playing "rock" riffs makes for a playful outing
J. Ross | Roseburg, OR USA | 12/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Playing Time 41:30 - A REVIEW OF THE ENTIRE GRASS SERIES - What an ambitious project from a new kid on the bluegrass block, two-year-old Synergy Entertainment in New York! The Grass Series boasts a total collection of 15 albums that tapped professional Nashville-based bluegrass artists to cover the music of various bands and musicians from other genres. Produced by Donald Marrow, their intent is to present contemporary rock, pop and gospel in an acoustic bluegrass format. I would highly recommend that you start with the "Best `uv Grass" 14-song sampler (running just over 40 minutes) with one hand-picked favorite track from each album in the entire collection.
So just who are these Grassmasters who were hired for the session work? There's some impressive talent among the lineup, and then there are also a few pickers who could've been more proficient in the bluegrass idiom. Tommy White (dobro) is one master musician who appears on all 15 albums. Those who appear on a majority of the 15 releases include Billy Hullett (guitars), Tammy Rogers (fiddle, mandolin), Hoot Hester (fiddle, mandolin), Fred Newell (mandolin), Vic Jordan (banjo),
Daniel O'Lannerghty or Charlie Chadwick (bass). Andrea Zonn fiddles on a third of the albums, and she evens provides some short-lived smooth vocalizing on two albums in the series. Where there are multiple players of the same instrument or various vocalists, liner notes don't clearly indicate who is playing on what cut. Every once in awhile, the moon and stars align and a few special renditions jump out at you. More often, however, the goal of producing a large volume of material in a short period of time seems to have led to problematic issues with arrangement, instrumentation, or presentation.
There are a few things to be aware of about the Grass Series. The earlier releases (StonesGrass, BeatlesGrass, EaglesGrass and FleetwoodGrass) have no vocals at all. These four in the series (as well as AeroGrass) also include Bob Mater's drums. He's steady, but bluegrass aficionados may want this primarily instrumental music without percussion and just let the mandolin chop the backbeat. BeatlesGrass could've used some stronger banjo work. Interestingly, liner notes don't provide a credit for the banjo in the mix of the DeadGrass project. Vic Jordan (most likely) must've been forgotten that day!
With the exception of the 15-song KidsGrass and 14-song Best'uvGrass, the other CDs each offer twelve selections. Buyers should be aware that they range from a low of 28 minutes (ElvisGrass) to nearly 49 minutes worth of music (EaglesGrass). While the former includes some refrains courtesy of The Jordanaires, the song arrangements are short and typically only about two minutes apiece. While the latter has a number of 4- and 5-minute renditions of Eagles tunes, there are no vocals. Where's the happy medium that provides for thoughtful, creative arrangements with both instrumental and vocal prowess?
With their slogan of "Please Keep on the Grass," this series is worth checking out if you're in search of mostly instrumental bluegrass covers of the material. Comparing The Grass Series to the CMH Label's "Pickin' On" Series, it appears that the former stays closer to a traditional bluegrass sound with no electric instruments, and little percussion as noted above. Also, the "Pickin' On" series features musicians from a greater geographic area than just Nashville. Their consistency in quality may be more variable whereas the "Grass Series" has a constant of the same producer and core group of top Nashville session musicians (with special guests as needed for each production's specific needs).
All things considered, here are a few observations on this specific album, only one in the entire 15-CD Grass Series:
** AeroGrass runs over 41 minutes with the established core group of musicians, John Morton (guitar), and vocals by Margie Cates, Gus Gatches, and Monty Lane Allen. The Boston rock band's biggest hits are covered, usually without vocals. Guest Jim Hoke's harmonica and jew's harp provide a nice flavoring, but pass on the second cut ("The Train Kept A-Rollin'") that has too much drumming for my taste. The bluegrassers capture the classic Aerosmith riffs, and it makes for a playful (even humorous) outing. While the bluegrass renditions are rather earthy, I think I'll stick with the edgy original versions with vocals on classic-rock FM stations.