High Fidelity - Banjo Player's Blues
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Banjo Player's Blues (Rebel, 2020)

High Fidelity

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

Bluegrass music performed to the highest level by youthful revisionists.

High Fidelity are traditional innovators. They come from a place of loving, appreciating, and comprehending the deepest of bluegrass traditions - refined vocal harmony, instrumental proficiency, a perceptible appreciation for the country and associated songbooks, sacred songs and perspectives - while inserting female voices and musicianship to a degree many other groups have never considered. They do this not out of tokenism, but from a viewpoint of equality and vision: this is how the music could have sounded, had all things been considered fair game since 1946.

"Banjo Player's Blues" is steeped in bluegrass traditions, and on this - the group's third long player - High Fidelity attains an even greater level of proficiency. While the group is encouraged to introduce original material to their recorded repertoire, one finds nothing else to fault among the 13 numbers presented here.

High Fidelity knows what works. While recording and performing for modern audiences, the quintet recognizes that the tight vocal harmony, hard-driving approach is what bluegrass folks continue to find appealing. As Corrina Rose Logston (fiddle, guitar, and vocals) writes of the High Fidelity mission in the liner notes, "firmly rooted in where we've come from while pushing forward to meet what new things we can create collectively."

Providing a tangible bridge from the first generation to contemporary circumstance is the inclusion of Jesse McReynolds, picking and singing on "Tears of Regret," a number the McReynolds' recorded in 1955. Also from Jim & Jesse comes the smokin' "The South Bound Train" (twin banjos from Jeremy Stephens and Kurt Stephenson) and "Take My Ring From Your Finger."

These songs are expertly presented, with as much fervor as one expects from those raised and trained within - and not limited by - tradition. Stephens' voice is ideal for "Picture on the Wall;" one can well-imagine he and Corinna sitting around the parlor, singing with Carter Family members of long ago.

Hearing "His Charming Love," (featuring Vickie Vaughn and Daniel Amick,) "Got A Little Light," and (with bassist Vaughn on lead) "Dear God" performed to this level is quite breathtaking: one doesn't need to be a believer to be impressed...although it probably helps!

Additional outstanding performances include "You Made the Break," "Banjo Player's Blues," and "Old Home Place." High Fidelity refreshes each, making them their own while maintaining connection to the past. They dig especially deep on "Old Home Place," kicking off the album with a hardcore mando chop and leads from Amick.

High Fidelity is punching hard to be considered the premier 'next generation' traditional bluegrass band working the circuit. "Banjo Player's Blues" attests to their excellence.

CDs by High Fidelity

Banjo Player's Blues, 2020 Hills and Home, 2018

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