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Charlie Waller and the Country Gentlemen

Songs of the American Spirit – 2004 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Charlie Waller and the Country Gentlemen

One of the best singers you'll ever hear has now left us but, thanks to his many recordings with the Country Gentlemen, Charlie Waller's voice will always be with us.

The Country Gentlemen always stayed out on the edges of bluegrass, sometimes following the Monroe-Stanley lead, but often forging new territory. Waller's voice was one that could be equally at home in bluegrass, gospel or country, and while this CD retains its bluegrass flavor, you can hear much in it that should appeal to a wider audience. During this time of strife, "Be Quiet When Willie Walks By" is a song that tugs at your heartstrings. They also cover the "Fighting Side Of Me" that's been an anthem of country spirit since Haggard penned it, and harking back to World War II is a perennial favorite, "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere." The band shows how to drive a song on more than one cut, but "Blackberry Blossom" is one of the great bluegrass instrumentals, and they certainly do it justice.

Charlie Waller's great voice is never better heard than when he sings a sentimental song or ballad. Elvis' recording of "Crying In The Chapel" is usually the benchmark for that song, but Waller's version here is its equal. He closes with a Dixie Hall number, "Let Me Fly Low" that, in retrospect, was a foretelling of his passing. What a fitting way to close such an outstanding career.