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Eddie Adcock

Vintage Banjo Jam – 2017 (Patuxent)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Eddie Adcock

Eddie Adcock, along with Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Bill Keith, Sonny Osborne, and Walter Hensley, is one of a half-dozen or so who are consistently named as instrumental in progressing the 5-string banjo within bluegrass music during its first 20 years. Ahead of his time perhaps, Adcock was known, as would Béla Fleck, Noam Pikelney, and others in subsequent generations, for pushing the banjo within bluegrass in progressive directions and not always with the appreciation of those more traditionally minded.

In 1963, Adcock was in the midst of his dozen years with The Country Gentlemen, themselves a progressive bluegrass outfit, and looking to take his 5-string further, even into more popular and commercial streams of music and entertainment. "Vintage Banjo Jam" contains the vaguest hints of traditional bluegrass, despite the presence of Country Gentlemen compatriot Tom Gray (bass) and Pete Kuykendall (guitar), who had played banjo with the Country Gents prior to Adcock's tenure. Barry Worrell contributes drumming.

With these sessions, Adcock was attempting to forge a new path, and impress upon RCA's Chet Atkins the potential his music had within the wider pop and country market. That these recordings were not released over the subsequent 50-plus years is perhaps a testimony to the success of the endeavor. Still, there is 'something' here.

Neither pop nor country, not rock or 'grass, these cuts are a window into Adcock's creative process, maybe significant more for what they attempted that what they are. Entirely instrumental, Adcock explores Spanish sounds ("Los Dedos") and other music of the day including "Theme from 'Exodus'" and "The Waltz You Saved For Me." "Country Gentleman" has a jaunty swing to it, while "Warm and Windy," "Banjo Bop," and "Downtown Boogie" have some early rock in their roll. Most of these numbers are Adcock compositions, and among the most familiar pieces is his lively take of "Camptown Races." One of the highlights, and most bluegrass-based, is an aggressive piece called "Eddie to the Rescue."

"Vintage Banjo Jam" offers a slice of 5-string history, the appreciation of which will depend on one's interest in early-60s adult-pop/middle of the road sounds. It serves both as valuable academic curiosity and as a piece of cohesive acoustic entertainment.