home listen reviews a-z
Ronnie Bowman

STARTING OVER (Sugar Hill) • Ronnie Bowman

This here's some badass bluegrass.

What a heavenly voice, oh man. Ronnie was the lead singer of the Lonesome River Band for more than a decade, a group that bluegrass aficionados recognize as a centerpiece of the genre. He was chosen the IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year in '95, '97 and '99. The guy who won it this year, Dan Tyminski, is one of the fantastic singers harmonizing with Ronnie on Starting Over. Garnet Imes, Steve Gulley, Michael Hunt also contribute perfect vocal tracks, as well as Craig Market, who wrote or cowrote half of the songs. Tyminski the man is also playing the beejesus out of the mandolin on a number of cuts.

A couple of hours ago I was listening to a popular hippie bluegrass band, but it just didn't get it for me, although it was entertaining. As soon as I put this on, I saw the light. These guys are the young masters of this style, and their artistry is awesome. It's like listening to Ravi Shankar, or YoYo Ma. It's mindblowing.

Jerry Douglas is typically incendiary, he can burn it right down to the bridge at any given moment, and his restraint is half the fun. The banjo and fiddle of Ron Stewart was fabulous: his banjo playing in particular was so round and full, so melodious, it got me all over the net looking for the right used banjo (again). Barry Bales on bass made me appreciate anew how important that instrument is to the musicality of the pulse in bluegrass. Every note meant something, I could hear the pitch of every note perfectly, which speaks to excellent engineering and mixing, at the Doobie Shea Studios in VA and Soundshop in Nashville.

The heartbreaking "Go Home" put my head right on the table, like it's supposed to. Luckily, my foot started tapping right away when they launched into "Bring It On Baby" for an uplifting finish. Whether you're a staunch supporter of bluegrass music or just want a hip great release to check out, pick this one up from Sugar Hill Records. • FG

view cover         listen to clips        puremusic home