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Ultimate Picking
Price: $14.26
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Ultimate Picking on CD

Derived from the various Bluegrass '90s albums that the Pinecastle label released, "Ultimate Pickin'" features Jeff Autry (guitar), Wayne Benson (mandolin), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Scott Vestal (banjo) and Mark Schatz (bass). Rickie Simpkins also plays fiddle on half dozen cuts. Rob Ickes plays resophonic guitar on 14 of 20 tracks, and Randy Kohrs plays on the remaining six tracks. Although most of the tracks are staples of the bluegrass repertoire, these players are able to impart their own stylistic interpretations and breathe new life into them. For example, the bouncing tempo and key changes in "I'll Fly Away" are a pleasant surprise as the breaks get handed around. "Roanoke" is given the barn-burning treatment. As a matter of personal taste, I prefer one tune ("Red Apple Rag") at a more moderate tempo. The original CD releases from the 90s had two accompanying AcuTab transcription books (Scott Vestal's banjo and Wayne Benson's mandolin). These guys are all the cream of the crop - musicians' musicians who have earned our respect for their great session and performance work over the years. I can tell that they had fun jamming up these tunes, and I can almost see their joy and creativity being exuded at the sessions. For a little motivation or inspiration, one need only put on a few minutes of this super picking. As hot and clean as their picking is, I can't help but think that a little more harmony might've embellished the project. Drawn from the famed but sadly out-of-print "Bluegrass 96-99" series, this is the first time many of these 20 tunes have been available in years. Produced by Scott Vestal, this "ultimate" disc is truly worth of it's "Best of..." moniker and is incomparably good. Absolutely extreme instrumental bluegrass favorites at their best! For their next challenge, I'd like to see them assemble the same pickers and give us 20 more tunes, new less-oft-heard ones that we can embrace as the 21st Century's standards. - Joe Ross