Bluegrass Album Band returns in fine style

This is the first of two articles about the historic reunion of The Bluegrass Album Band this past weekend in North Carolina.

Tony Rice, Josh Williams, Todd Phillips and J.D. Crowe at the Bluegrass Album Band reunion show at Bluegrass First Class (2/16/13) - photo by John GoadThere’s no better way to start the Bluegrass Album Band reunion than with the crack of Crowe’s banjo kicking off the album one song one: Blue Ridge Cabin Home in B flat from their original 1981 recording. This past Saturday night, the anxious audience of festival-goers at Bluegrass First Class got to hear just that as the Bluegrass Album Band began playing their first set in twenty three years.

Original band members Todd Phillips, J.D. Crowe, Tony Rice, Doyle Lawson, and Bobby Hicks took the stage with special guest Josh Williams at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, NC in front of a crowd of over 800 fans who had gathered in line over five hours in advance to see the performance. This concert kicked off a string of shows that the Bluegrass Album Band will play throughout 2013, giving fans several chances to hear some of their favorite tunes performed by one of bluegrass music’s best lineups.

Milton Harkey introducing the Bluegrass Album Band at Bluegrass First Class (2/16/13) - photo by John GoadLongtime festival promoter Milton Harkey, who organizes Bluegrass First Class and was instrumental in organizing the original Bluegrass Album Band tour in the 1980s, began the show by sharing some memories of the band and how everything came together. He even showcased his early-80s Members Only jacket from the first tour. The band, originally assembled by Tony Rice to fufill a record deal for Rounder Records, never planned on going on tour, much less recording multiple albums over more than a decade. However, as the response to this concert shows, bluegrass fans purely loved the Album Band.

The band played close to an hour and a half of modern bluegrass classics, including such songs as Down the Road, Please Search Your Heart, Your Love is Like a Flower and Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise). Among the highlights of the show were the several instrumentals in which the band members really let loose on their instruments.

Fans delighted in old stories, conveyed with a lighthearted attitude from the band, as they shared funny tidbits from past experiences. For several new generations of fans, it was their first opportunity to see this iconic group of musicians perform. A particularly special moment was shared with the audience as Josh Williams came to the realization of just who he was sharing the stage with during the third verse of the band’s opening number, resulting in a slight variation of the song’s original third verse.

With the ability to draw from a vast repertoire, it’s hard to say what fans will hear from the Bluegrass Album Band at their upcoming performance dates. However, there’s no doubt that they’ll be hearing good music.


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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.