By David Royko
J.D. CROWE AND THE NEW SOUTH
COME ON DOWN TO MY WORLD
Back to the Barrooms/Come On Down to My World/Come Back Sweetheart/I'm So Afraid of Losing You Again/J's Tune/I Don't Know/Grandpa's Shoes/You Didn't Say Goodbye/Careless Love/My Blue Eyes Left You In Tennessee/White Freightliner/I'm Goin' That Way
One hallmark of J.D. Crowe is his ability to stay current with whatever is happening on the bluegrass scene, and to adapt his approach while remaining true to his own personal vision, and often his vision results in some of the best contemporary bluegrass of the day.
The 1990s have seen bluegrass become more polished and streamlined, and so it should be no surprise that "Come On Down to My World" reflects this trend in its relatively laid-back, smooth sound. Nor should it be surprising that Crowe and company do a terrific job within this context
Of course, the key word is "relatively," because this is a J.D. Crowe bluegrass album, and it is his banjo that kicks off the disc's first track, "Back to the Barrooms," a mid-tempo Merle Haggard tune. It introduces the qualities of the current New South: sincere, almost solemn lead singing from Greg Luck; witty mandolin picking and clear tenor singing, in this case in harmony, from Dwight McCall; glistening banjo tone and inventive back-up from Crowe; jazz-like creativity from resonator guitarist Phil Leadbetter; gorgeous fiddling, duties shared by Glen Duncan and Buddy Spicher; and a rock-solid ensemble sound moored by bassist Curt Chapman.
The tunes, with a couple of exceptions, stray far from typical bluegrass associations, if not from typical bluegrass themes of love and family. The two instrumentals--Crowe's original "J's Tune" and the classic "Careless Love"--deliver what they should, while the radio-ready tone struck by the slower, Americana type numbers, namely McCall's agreeable "I Don't Know," and "Grandpa's Shoes" (which could do very well at IBMA, with a sentimental message not unlike "Mama's Hand" of Hazel Dickens and Lynn Morris), should find favor with DJs looking for true bluegrass ballads.
In sum, another worthy outing for a great banjo picker and his band with the name that has become a bluegrass institution.
(Rounder Records, One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140) DR