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David Royko Psy.D


Grass Roots--The Best of New Grass Revival

Chicago Tribune

July 8, 2005

RECORDINGS


New Grass Revival

Grass Roots--The Best of New Grass Revival

(Capitol/EMI)

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

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