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Rambler's Choice

Sounds Of The Mountains – 1998 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Jonathan Colcord

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CDs by Rambler's Choice

Rambler's Choice stands on top as the best bluegrass album of the year. The band - Junior Sisk, Tim Massey, Elmer Burchett, Alan Perdue and Jimmy VanCleve - possesses that kind of magic spark expected from the Del McCoury Band or Blue Highway.

The group, formerly known as Wyatt Rice and Santa Cruz, but now sans Wyatt, explores varying bluegrass styles with polish and finesse. Moving between uptempo driving bluegrass, country-inspired songs and everything in between, this is a dynamic piece of work. This band also does a fine job on great cover material, especially Ralph Stanley's "Shotgun Slade," and "Poor Rambler." Lonesome River Band's Ronnie Bowman co-wrote two of the finest tracks - "No More Painting Up This Town" and "Sweet Country Lovin'." Another stylistic bend in the road is Sisk's "Springtime and Roses," in the classic Bill Monroe waltz-style, with fine fiddle work from VanCleve. Banjo man Burchett's "Sit And Sing The Blues" is another powder-keg of a song. Perdue picks every note clean on mandolin on the fast tracks.

Superb songwriting on top of hot picking all the way through. There are albums that have great songs on them, and there are albums that simply flow well. Rambler's Choice does both.