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Crucial Smith

Morning Light – 2000 (ReQuest)

Reviewed by Mark "Brink" Brinkman

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CDs by Crucial Smith

Pull two hot pickers from the bluegrass world and combine them with two hot pickers from the rock world and what do you get? Crucial Smith. Comparisons with the legendary New Grass Revival are to be expected as the album was produced by New Grass Revival guitarist Pat Flynn. Even so, Crucial Smith is not a "New Grass" clone. Members bring their own vitality to the music. In many ways, they defy description in a world that wants to pigeonhole musical styles.

The initial cut, "Cry," is as driving as any traditional bluegrass tune, but leans much more toward the progressive side of bluegrass. Vocals are a definite strength throughout. Powerful lead performances and tight, smooth harmonies are the bands trademark. Mandolinist Kyle Wood has a soft mandolin style but contrasts his picking with powerhouse tenor vocals. Chris Joslin does some fine banjo work on their arrangement of the Beatles standard, "Please, Please Me." Tim May performs equally well on the guitar. The band is held together by Dave Holladay on electric bass.

The songwriting stands out. Sometimes having a band contribute 10 of the 12 tunes results in weak material. Not here. From the beautiful ballad "Rebuild the Union" to the gospel tune "King of Babylon" to the rip-roaring Slow it Down," there isn't a weak tune in the bunch. (Crucial Smith, E-Mail: MHManagement@aol.com, 615-794-8285)