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Published: 2006/08/19
by Randy Ray

self titled- Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, and the Low Country All-Star Band

Flatt Mountain Records 001

"In the future of the moment,

I can see the Master’s hand…"

- Bob Dylan

Former Old & In The Way fiddle virtuoso Vassar Clements passed away on August 16, 2005. Now, that’s certainly no reason to forget the man’s music. This latest posthumous album, recorded at one of his last gigs in December 2004, proves why. The band is fast, rollicking and, best of all, well-schooled in multi-genre acoustic songs ranging from the also-covered-by-the-Dead “Dark Hollow” to a couple of Bill Monroe beauts to a Dickey Betts favorite, “Kissimmee Kid,” and “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” — the latter duo written by Clements. The flatpicking Tony Rice is also sublime on guitar and vocals as he weaves stories in between Clements for a perfect blend of down home country honk and old school bluegrass.

The Low Country All-Star Band features Ricky Skaggs and Tim O’Brien vet Tony Williamson on mandolin and vocals, Scott Vetal on upright bass, Warren Amberson on acoustic guitar and lead vocals, and Carroll Clements — Vassar’s cousin — on banjo. The music calls from the Appalachians but rests in that always-welcome spot of timeless Americana that never seems to fade away. In between the heartbreak and squalor of “Billy in the Lowground” and “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight,” the listener is invited into a world that shares the values of the past without feeling a wee bit ancient. As a matter of fact, this little delicious slice of Low Country Americana appears quite young, energetic and restless as “Salt Creek” leaps into Monroe’s “Toy Heart” before jack-rabbiting into a flawless rendition of “Unwound” — a scrappy mixture of a lost woman and a found bottle of fine whiskey.

"Restless" is the word I’m searching for as I sit amazed at how a man of 77 — with other cats long past their own midway points of life — created floor-shaking, roof-leaking music that in the, fury of its own particular moments still doesn’t betray a hint of the old, in the way or otherwise. As a matter of fact, the door swings wide open into a warm, cherry-wood and sawdust parlor with a large sign that reads “Come on in through the IN door, friends. We serve your kind in here.” Why turn back from that friendly message?

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