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Published: 2001/12/19
by Brad Weiner

Back At The Mac – IIIrd Tyme Out

Rounder Records 11661-0487-2
The International Bluegrass Music Association doesn’t have a particularly
strong lobby in Washington. They don’t have a rigid agenda, and all you have
to do to see the President is come up with a few good solos on Pow Wow Indian
Boy. In spite of their relatively small government, they do throw an award
show each year and pick (pardon the pun) the best players that side of
"Back at the Mac", the second live release from IIIrd Tyme Out, starts with the
introduction "make welcome will you please, seven time IBMA Vocal Group of the
Year, IIIrd Tyme Out!" Some raucous applause comes next, followed by a rich
Scruggs-style banjo introduction and tightly knit layers of bass, guitar,
mandolin and fiddle playing the Bill Monroe classic Come Back to Me In My Dreams.
I’ll say it: the music is good. Damn good in fact, but real treat comes when
you hear them sing. I suddenly realized that the International Bluegrass Music
Association folks are pretty good what they do. Their voices are absolutely
beautiful. It doesn’t matter if it’s a solo voice or four part harmony. IIIrd
Tyme Out wrote themselves into my book as not only an exceptional bluegrass
band, but some of the masters of the genre.
Recorded in a single evening at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonburg,
Kentucky, "Back at the Mac" showcases tunes that come from the bottomless barrel
of bluegrass standards. The audience shows tremendous support and respect by
remaining quiet during the tunes, then letting it all out at the end. The
liner notes indicate that after their original release from the MAC, their
fans said they should do it all over again. They went ahead with the request
on this awesome sequel.
Some highlights include When My Time Comes To Go, Dim Lights, Thick Smoke
sung masterfully by bassist Ray Deaton, and I Hung My Head and Cried. They
switch well between slowed down gospel numbers, ballads and rapid-fire
pickin’. There are a pair of instrumental gems on the album including Lost
John, which showcases fiddler Mike Hartgrove. The other is flatpicking tour de
force East Tennessee Blues. This song shows that IIIrd Tyme Out have mastered
their instruments just in case of emergency laryngitis. Mandolinist Wayne
Benson frequently weaves dizzying licks into the subtle bluegrass tapestry
which often left me fumbling for the rewind button.

Jamband fans should be warned that IIIrd Tyme Out (a name which in my
opinion, is difficult to explain, pronounce and type) plays with all the
energy and proficiency of our newgrass heroes, but the songs all clock in at
fewer than four minutes. There are no epic segues and no acoustic
interpretations of classic rock songs. They get down to business, then leave
before you can reclaim your jaw from the floor.

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