Released: February, 2013
Label: Blue Circle Records
Review by: W.J. Hallock
My buddy, Brian McNeal, and I, have been friends since the mid 70’s. Besides being friends, we have one other thing in common….. a love affair with that 60’s Bakersfield country music sound. Brian played all those Buck and Merle songs when he was a disc jockey for KNIX in Phoenix, which was owned by Buck Owens. My band “Cactus County,” and I were playing country music (yeah, LOTS of Buck and Merle!), for dance hall crowds in every honky-tonk and road house in the southwest, with Phoenix being home base.
That sound of Buck and Don Rich singing together, Bonnie Owens (Buck’s ex-wife) vocalizing on all of Merle Haggard’s hit records, and that famous chicken-pickin’ Telecaster guitar playing of Don, James Burton and Roy Nichols will forever be a special part of country music history that we’ll always love. So, now, when anything reminds us of that era, we’re all in and checkin’ it out!
A few months back, Brian sent me some songs to listen to by “Feller and Hill and the Bluegrass Buckaroos.” We both couldn’t believe how much Tom Feller and Chris Hill sounded like Buck and Don singing together! We were pretty excited to see just how this musical adventure was going to turn out, as the CD wasn’t finished and ready for release.
The completed project came last week, and it was all we had hoped it would be. To quote Brian, “Feller and Hill do the third best version of TOGETHER AGAIN ever recorded!”and I whole-heartedly agree. The original version by Buck Owens will always be #1.…. Emmylou Harris OWNS the #2 spot….. and, time will only tell for sure, but, in my humble opinion (AND Brian’s) Feller and Hill have made their version so personalized and passionate as to forever nail down that #3 slot. When you think of all the many artists who have recorded TOGETHER AGAIN, that’s a BIG deal! To re-do a song that defined a specific sound and musical era, and do it in such a way that it makes the song relevant to another generation of listeners, that is the epitome of successful communication skills.
Just so there’s no confusion, this CD is straight ahead bluegrass. Tom and Chris have spent years as sidemen for some of the best bluegrass bands around, and their credentials are exceptional. On this release, Tom plays acoustic and Pedal Steel guitars, mandolin and upright bass. Chris plays all the banjo tracks, and plays any style called for. Earl Scruggs would be proud of Chris’ proficiency in his style, especially with his use of Earl’s patented “Scruggs tuners.” Don Reno and Ralph Stanley’s styles are also in Chris’ arsenal. But what sets this CD apart from those of so many other bluegrass bands, is the way these two talented gentlemen sing together. The two of them have that cohesive magic that not every duo have, and they have taken all their vocal and studio/technical strengths and added layers of vocals to the entire CD to make it a total pleasure to hear.
The very first song on this musical trip kicks off with a bang. The old Delmore Brother’s standard, “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar,” leaps out of the speakers, complete with two part harmony, a Lester Flatt “G-run” guitar lick and Chris’ 5-string banjo just a cookin’! This song will make you smile, because it’s alive, traditional and as authentic as it gets. Especially notable on this tune is the lead guitar solo of Brian Blaylock. It just plain sizzles!
( Music Charts Magazine Bluegrass Album Reviews are all done by Prescription Bluegrass – “Your Bluegrass Home” )