If there were a Bluegrass Mount Rushmore, with brother Jim Jesse McReynolds would be staring down at us alongside Bill Monroe, Ralph and Carter, Flatt & Scruggs, Bobby and Sonny, and Hazel and Alice.
One might not expect 90-year old Jesse McReynolds to release a fiddle-centric album at this point in his storied career. Most familiar as the mandolin-playing brother, Jesse McReynolds is also an excellent fiddler, and he proves that on several numbers paying tribute to the inspiration of his forebearers. The family fiddle is played by several different fiddlers across these 16, mostly familiar tunes.
Quick back-story: Charles and William McReynolds, Jesse's grandfather and uncle, recorded two numbers during the Bristol Sessions (which brought The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and others to the forefront of the burgeoning country music world) of 1927 as the Bull Mountain Moonshiners, and utilized the violin featured on this current album. The surviving track, "Johnny Goodwin," is about as hardscrabble, old-time country as one can imagine.
Within a modern recording environment, Jesse McReynolds & Friends' "Play The Bull Mountain Moonshiners Way" captures the emotion and history of that long ago music. On six numbers, McReynolds' plays the old $7, Stradivarius-copy handed down through generations, with other notables featured elsewhere. As a bonus, also utilized is Uncle Will's banjo, providing the album with additional McReynolds' family heritage.
None of which would matter a lick if the associated album didn't kick. And boy, does it!
The title track is a new McReynolds' composition briefly telling the tale of grandfather Charles and his musical vision, one of two songs featuring McReynolds singing. The other vocal number is "The Girl I Left Behind Me," also known as..."Johnny Goodwin."
Corrina Rose Logston (High Fidelity) is featured on a pair of songs, including a twin fiddle performance of "Turkey in the Straw" with Buddy Griffin; her fiddling on "Billy in the Lowground" is a shade warmer than hot. Trusted friends of McReyolds, Logston and husband and High Fidelity bandmate Jeremy Stephens also contribute album notes, and he plays banjo and guitar on a selection of numbers.
Fiddlers Michael Cleveland ("Soldier's Joy,") Eddie Stubbs ("Chinese Breakdown,") Glen Duncan ("Duncan's Country Store,") and Jim Buchanan ("Ricketts Hornpipe,") also are featured. McReynolds plays mandolin on several numbers including "Sally Johnson" and "Kennedy Rag," while folks like Mike Snider and Raymond McLain contribute banjo here and there.
No messing around here: Jesse McReynolds & Friends' "Play The Bull Mountain Moonshiners Way" is 37-minutes of prime, sparking, and invigorating bluegrass music played the old-time way.