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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Grascals – The Grascals & Friends – Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin

The Grascals – The Grascals & Friends – Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin
2011, BluGrascal Records/The Cracker Barrel
The Grascals had quite the year in 2010, releasing the wildly successful The Famous Lefty Flynn’s and earning 10 SPBGMA Award nominations.  This after winning Bluegrass Band Of The Year in February of 2010.  Rather than sit back and celebrate, The Grascals charge forth into 2011 with a dynamic new album entitled The Grascals & Friends – Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin.  Available only through Cracker Barrel Restaurants, The Grascals & Friends unites the band with some great musical names such as Dolly Parton, Dierks Bentley, Tom T. Hall, Charlie Daniels, Brad Paisley and Hank Williams, Jr. 
The Grascals & Friends opens with a great cover of “Tiger By The Tail”, featuring Brad Paisley.  Offered with strong energy and superb musicianship, this is the perfect opener.  Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” is up next, featuring Dierks Bentley.  The song is well performed and attempts to capture Cash’s mystique.  In this the song is not entirely successful, but on its own it’s a fine listen.  Dolly Parton sits in on “The Pain Of Lovin’ You” and “I Am Strong”.  “The Pain Of Loving You” is overly reserved but solidly performed.  “I Am Strong” isn’t convincing, but musically is all a Grascals fan would expect.  “Louisiana Saturday Night” has a down home feel and celebrates the simple life.  The arrangement is full of gorgeous harmonies and has an entrancing quality that will grab you.
“The Year That Clayton Delaney Died” features legend Tom T. Hall and is a solid old school story song.  “White Lightning” sounds a bit like Chuck Berry done bluegrass style.  The song features Darryl Worley and the amazing fiddle work of Jeremy Abshire. The inimitable Charlie Daniels sits in on “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”.  The song loses a bit of fire in the translation, but is solid all around.  “Mr. Bojangles” is performed with an air of quiet reverence.  Joe Nichols sits in amidst a sweet arrangement focused on bringing out the simple beauty of the melody.  Hank Williams Jr. stops by for “Born To Boogie/All My Rowdy Friends” in perhaps the highest energy outing on the album.  The arrangement offered here steps back from the almost rock n roll feel of the original, but loses nothing in the translation.  “Cracker Barrel Swing” shows off The Gracals’ instrumental chops in a relaxed, laid-back setting while throwing a nod to the album’s sponsor/distributor.  Grascals And Friends closes with a bonus track of “I Am Strong” that fails to make up ground on the previously offered version.
Grascals And Friends mostly delivers on the promise of the dynamic pairings it offers.  The Grascals are uncanny in their ability to craft arrangements that sometimes seem more natural than the original song versions.  It seems likely that the run of awards will continue for The Grascals.  And if the food from The Cracker Barrel isn’t reason enough for you to stop by, Grascals And Friends certainly is.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about The Grascals at or Grascals & Friends drops on January 10, 2011, and will be available through Cracker Barrel restaurants.  A portion of the proceeds from The Grascals & Friends will be donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospitals.

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