Phil Leadbetter - The Next Move
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The Next Move (Pinecastle, 2014)

Phil Leadbetter

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

Phil Leadbetter is one of the best resophonic guitar players in bluegrass and country music. He's played with Grandpa Jones, Vern Gosdin, JD Crowe, Wildfire, Grasstowne and, most recently, Dale Ann Bradley. He was the 2005 IBMA Dobro Player of the Year. Sidelined for over two years by cancer, and now fighting a second battle with its return, he managed to record a CD between bouts of illness that was a dream project for him: recording with a list of some of the best in bluegrass and country.

Former and present bandmate Steve Gulley co-wrote and sings "I've Never Seen a Love That Wasn't Blind" as well as singing harmony on other cuts. Steve Thomas plays mandolin, fiddle and/or guitar on many of the cuts as well as singing harmony and Mark Newton adds harmony on a Ken Mellons' number, "I'm a Modern Day Interstate Gypsy." Steve Wariner co-wrote and sings "Hole In The Earth," a familiar bluegrass tale of trying to escape the life of a coal miner, but somehow never staying away for good. Leadbetter joins forces with resophonic stars Rob Ickes and Jerry Douglas, along with Sierra Hull and Kenny Smith on "Just Joshin'," a song written by the man credited with introducing the Dobro to bluegrass and country, Josh Graves. His co-writer was his Flatt & Scruggs bandmate, Jake Tullock.

Leadbetter has composed tunes that topped the bluegrass charts and here he plays "Leadbelly," joined by his son, Matt, another great Dobro player. Marty Raybon and Joe Diffie, both able to sing a soulful song, join forces with Paul Brewster (Ricky Skaggs) on an inspirational number, "Baptism." Shawn Camp and Charlie Cushman, making their own news now with the Earls of Leicester, are here as well as John Cowan and Sam Bush. Leadbetter includes two numbers heard often in country but also closely tied to blues, "Georgia On My Mind," with Con Hunley nailing the lead vocals, and "Sweet Georgia Brown," swinging and hot, featuring Buck White on the piano and Béla Fleck on the banjo.

This CD is loaded with talented performers and good songs but Leadbetter saved the most poignant number for the last track. It's a solo performance, slowed from it's usual cadence and played with soul, of "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder." This CD is a testament to his life as a Dobro player, an artist, and the love so many people have for him.

CDs by Phil Leadbetter

The Next Move, 2014 Slide Effects, 2005

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