Russ Carson - Avenue of the Giants
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Avenue of the Giants (Patuxent, 2014)

Russ Carson

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

Russ Carson is a young man on the move. He spent three years with Audie Blaylock and Redline, a band with a lot of Jimmy Martin drive, and now plays with Kentucky Thunder, Ricky Skaggs' band. He's put together a great collection of self-penned tunes and long-time favorites and it's pure bluegrass.

"New River Train," a traditional folk song, has a unique sound produced by a Reed Martin copy of the 1863 Joel Sweeney fretless banjo. You'll rarely hear an instrument like this on CD. You'll hear another departure from the norm while listening to "Things In Life" (sung by Eddie Rose) as Carson takes a break on an open-back banjo made by his father. Other good instrumentals include a cover of Tony Trischka's "New Your Chimes," a fast moving number with the chimes played with perfection. The title number was composed by Carson, beginning and ending as a slow, thoughtful piece with an uptempo middle.

He includes some good vocals, too. "Letters Have No Arms" is a 1949 Ernest Tubb number performed by Blaylock and Carson. Blaylock also sings "Montana Cowboy," an old tune from Vern and Ray. Neither song first came from bluegrass, but they make the transition well.

This is helped by the great band supporting Carson's banjo playing. Jason Moore, who produced, plays bass, Jesse Brock is on mandolin, Blaylock on rhythm guitar, Patrick McAvinue on fiddle and ace guitarist Kenny Smith lead.

Blaylock sings on another old number, "Let Me Rest At The End of My Journey" and joins Darrell Webb on "Stone Cold," a bluegrass murder-for-love song, and "Heartbreak Hall of Fame." The inclusion of some old numbers is great, but this is Carson's banjo CD. He shows just how good he is on numbers like "Daddy's Dream," three-finger picking on "Pat Made Me Do It" or clawhammer on yet another old number, "Charlie's Neat," another number learned from his friend Reed Martin. This is for those looking for traditional bluegrass with no ifs, ands or maybes.

CDs by Russ Carson

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