Dallas and Bobby Smith had a fine bluegrass pedigree, being cousins of Lester Flatt. The latter also played with Bill Monroe in his Bluegrass Boys. On what subsequently turned out to be Dallas Smith's final album, "Still Pickin'" he was joined by special guest Vassar Clements the legendary fiddler who made his name in 1972 when he appeared live with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, upstaging the likes of Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, and Merle Travis.
The link with the legends of bluegrass is evident on the opener, Lester Flatt's "I'm Gonna Settle Down" which sets a marker for the rest of the album. This is a fine bluegrass band featuring first rate pickers, pluckers and fiddlers. They also can sing a bit too, as they demonstrate on the harmony vocals of Bill Monroe's waltz, the poignant "Mother's Only Sleeping."
This is pretty much an unashamedly bluegrass affair, and all the better for it. The close links with the blues are never far from the surface, however, as is evident from titles like "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," and the inclusion of a rattling good version of "John Henry" played at almost breakneck speed, and a low down, personalized "St James Infirmary Blues." As long as you like good fiddling and banjo plucking, you will find plenty of other stuff to admire here too, with "My Home's Across The Blue Ridge
Mountains" and the instrumental "Black Mountain Rag" being especially noteworthy.
"Still Pickin'" is a treat for lovers of bluegrass music. Anyone who picked up on the music via the film "O Brother! Where Art Thou?" will do well to check out "Still Pickin'." Dallas Smith was one of the last of the bluegrass greats, and it was not for nothing that he and his brother Bobby, were inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame over a decade ago. "Still Pickin'" shows that even in his final years, Dallas Smith was still a force to be reckoned with.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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