JD Crowe, Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams clearly qualify for “living legend” status in the world of bluegrass music. Though each is now a well-established bandleader, they all served an apprenticeship with the great Jimmy Martin as members of his Sunny Mountain Boys back in the day.
Williams and Crowe served their time together with Martin in the late 1950s, and Lawson joined the group on banjo after Crowe’s departure. Their musical styles ultimately diverged from what Martin had established as his distinctive style, but all three claim the lessons they learned in the Sunny Mountain Boys as critical to their individual successes.
Now these three Martin veterans have joined together again to record a new project for Crossroads Music, appropriately titled Old Friends Get Together. The all-Gospel project includes a number of Jimmy Martin classics, with Crowe on banjo, Lawson on guitar, and Williams on mandolin. Doyle and Paul handle the lead vocals with Crowe taking the baritone. Ben Isaacs is on bass (and bass vocals) and Ron Stewart on fiddle, with Sonya Isaacs and Cia Cherryholmes adding some high harmonies.
Doyle Lawson shared a few thoughts about this project…
“Over the span of 40 plus years, J.D., Paul and I have been like brothers. We come from the same school of music which started with the Jimmy Martin sound. Our connection to the style is so deep, we were just able to sit down and cut the songs. As soon as we started playing it was just there. Being able to play these songs again with these special friends means so much to me and I know it does to them too.”
Old Friends Get Together is due for a June 15 release, and a debut single is now available to bluegrass radio. It’s the first track from the CD, a fine version of Prayer Bells Of Heaven, which Crowe and Williams recorded with Jimmy Martin nearly 50 years ago.
Here’s just a taste…
Prayer Bells Of Heaven: