July 8, 2005
New Grass Revival
Grass Roots--The Best of New Grass Revival
By David Royko
Considering the individuals who made up the
now-legendary New Grass Revival, visionaries like Bela
Fleck and the group’s founder and leader, Sam Bush,
what is perhaps most remarkable is that the band still
managed to be even more than the sum of its parts.
Whether or not NGR invented newgrass music--which can
be most easily described as bluegrass techniques and
instruments applied to rock, blues, classical, reggae,
jazz, soul, and the kitchen, bathroom and utility room
sinks--they became the standard by which anything
called newgrass was and is judged.
This collection succeeds where two previous
single-disc anthologies failed, in that it follows the
band from its first album in 1972, to three tracks,
including the otherwise unreleased showpiece, “Singing
The Blues,” from the group’s farewell appearance at
the Grateful Dead’s 1989 New Year’s Eve concert.
Newly-issued live cuts mingle with selections from
every studio LP they made for various labels, as well
as three tracks from a long-rumored unreleased album
that would have been their second record, particularly
significant in that it includes personnel that never
otherwise appeared on a NGR album.
Over two well-filled discs, all the facets that made
NGR extraordinary--the unparalleled energy of Sam
Bush, John Cowan’s soaring tenor voice, dazzling Bela
Fleck instrumentals, expansive improvising,
wide-ranging repertoire, freewheeling jams, unbridled
virtuosity, tighter-than-tight ensemble
flourishes--are laid out chronologically, following
the group from its hippie origins in Kentucky to the
peak of Nashville’s virtuoso mountain, even grazing
the Top 40 charts along the way.
Copyright © 2005, Chicago Tribune