"This album is a joy from start to finish. As much as I enjoy the innovative work Bela Fleck has done in the past decade with the Flecktones and pushing the boundaries for the banjo as a lead instrument outside the context of bluegrass music, I have always had a passion for straight ahead bluegrass music. Over the past twenty-plus years, Fleck as earned the right to be mentioned in the same company as Earl Scruggs, J.D. Crowe and Tony Trischka as a pioneer of the banjo. Beginning with his formative years alongside mandolinist Jack Tottle in Tasty Licks to joining Sam Bush and John Cowan in the Newgrass Revival, Fleck has showed impeccable taste in his playing.On The Bluegrass Sessions, Fleck has collected a virtual Who's Who of bluegrass superstars: Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and a guest performance by Scruggs himself. But don't be misled by the album title. There are a only a handful of songs that might qualify as traditional bluegrass--"Blue Mountain Hop," "Polka on the Banjo" (the only vocal--provided by John Hartford), "Ode to Earl," "Home Sweet Home" and "Foggy Mountain Special"--most of the album mines a new acoustic groove which melds bluegrass and jazz into a fusion long championed by Tony Rice and David Grisman. [In fact, in his liner notes Fleck recommends several albums including Rice's Manzanita and Grisman's The David Grisman Rounder Album.]This is a wonderful collection and an excellent companion to Tales from the Acoustic Planet. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED"
The king of phrases
D. Earls | Kansas City, MO USA | 09/03/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I haven't missed a Bela in nearly 10 years now. I'm struck by the studied simplicity of Fleck's recordings. They sound just down-home simple until you begin to listen closely. Then you hear things that aren't so simple.First, of course, is what you don't hear. You don't hear a single missed note, an unsubtle nuance, a line without shape. Unlike so much of post newgrass where speed is king, Fleck's recordings emphasize each musician's talents at phrasing. The masters of bluegrass phrasing are here: Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Vasser Clements, and, of course, Bela. Tony Rice reminds us why you don't need percussion in true bluegrass.Second, you appreciate how intricately worked out these little pieces are. Take _When Joy Kills Sorrow_, for example. You have a drone, one-note bowed upright bass in the exposition (from the 12th century), you have chromatic modulations (jazz) which always resolve on the dominant or tonic (Baroque), and you get that canon (I lost count at six voices). Henry Purcell would have been thrilled to write that in 1690.Laying over it all is Bela's gentle touch and tone. With such good humor, how can you not smile? A worthy successor to Drive. I only miss two things: the Mark Fox graphics on the Flecktones cover days, and Mark O'Conner not stopping by."
One of Bela's best
ragamala78 | USA | 11/23/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the one of the finest albums Bela Fleck has released in a long time ("Live Art" being the other finest in recent memory.)First of all, it boasts an amazing guest roster including: Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Tony Rice, Mark Schatz, Vassar Clements, John Hartford, Earl Scruggs, Vince Gill, Tim O'Brien, Ricky Skaggs & more!Not all of these people appear on every song, but what a dream lineup! (The only person missing is Del McCoury!)"Tales from the Acoustic Planet 2" has a little taste of everything Fleck is known for. It has some solo banjo "Clarinet Polka", some more pensive slow numbers like "Over Grown Waltz", a little taste of the east "Katmandu", old-timey "Polka on the Banjo" and the downright weird "Do You Have Room?" From the sentimental to the sublime and from the frentic to the silly...this disc amply displays why Fleck will go down in history as one of the most innovative artists of all time. He has completely deconstructed the notion of what one can do with a banjo all while having total mastery over its more traditional use. He can do it all: traditional bluegrass, jazz, Celtic, avante-garde, Asian folk music, and the list goes on.Eventhough Bela Fleck's name is on the record, this isn't just his recording. Jerry Douglas' dobro (as always) is a welcome addition to the mix, and Sam Bush steps out for more than one nice mandolin solo. "Katmandu" showcases some of Fleck's more original ideas and "Blue Mountain Hop" shows that unique ability to take an interesting idea gleaned elsewhere to its most amazing possibilities.I've always found Bela Fleck albums hard to review (which I believe is quite a good sign.) Pick this one up, you won't be sorry."
ragamala78 | 04/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Bluegrass Sessions is without a doubt one of the best bluegrass albums ever made. It is true that this is not straight traditional bluegrass; there are no vocals (except for "Polka on the Banjo" and the annoying interlude, "is there room in your heart") and the progressions and melodies go far beyond the usual 1,4,5. I have several friends who were converted into being bluegrass lovers because of this album. The musicianship is first-rate with each musician among the best in the field. I am particularly touched by Jerry Douglas' playing (Katmandu, Spanish Point). Of course all of the players exhibit unreal talent on this album, particularly in the rhythm section (has anybody tried to play rhythm like Tony Rice or Sam Bush? There may be other players who can top these guys in solos (maybe not Tony, but check out Chris Thiele from Nickel Creek to see who's boss on the mandolin) but nobody can touch them rhythmically). Basically, this album will take your breath away from the start; anyone with a good ear can tell that this album is golden."
The Bela I Love to Hear
Gary Popovich | Chesterfield, VA USA | 11/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ever since his days as a teen-age banjo-picking phenom/enfant terrible, Bela Fleck has at the center of the newgrass vs. traditional bluegrass storm. He has taken the 5-string banjo to places heretofore unknown - bebop, rock, classical, and his unique musical vision that is The Flecktones. When Fleck applies his astonishing technique and compositional skills in a purely acoustic setting, it's a cause for celebration. Such is the case with "Tales From the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2." Bela assembles a terrific supporting band - Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, old Tasty Licks buddy Mark Schatz, and the underrated Stewart Duncan - that delivers driving, haunting bluegrass music. I don't listen to this CD every day, but it's impossible for me to go through a day without "Buffalo Nickel" and "When Joy Kills Sorrow" running through my mind. At its best, the ensemble playing approaches that of "Strength in Numbers, with the exception of having Bela more out in front. Certainly there's nothing wrong with that. Bela also takes time to duet with Earl Scruggs on Earl's "Foggy Mountain Special" - this turns out to be great fun for both of these 5-string masters.Still, this wouldn't be a Bela Fleck CD without some non-"grass" musical exploration; thus the inclusion of "Polka on the Banjo" (the only vocal, warmly and humourously delivered by the late John Hartford)and the truly remarkable "Clarinet Polka". In my humble view, this is Bela's finest effort. Hope you agree."