When guitar maker and namesake of a distinguished line of acoustic guitars, Preston Thompson, passed away in April of last year, he left behind a legacy of respect, quality, and loyalty held by any number of great musicians who helped his instruments become a standard of excellence in the modern bluegrass community. It was in tribute to him, as both a man and a musician, that a baker’s dozen of outstanding artists agreed to contribute to an album that pays homage to the sound of a great guitar, Hand Made To Hand Played, through a series of songs that are of both vintage and contemporary origins. The tender takes on this material pays due respect to an age old-sound that come to full flourish courtesy of these rich, resonating performances.
Indeed, it’s to the musicians’ credit that there’s a purity of purpose maintained throughout. Of course, that’s not surprising considering the stature of those involved, among them, Molly Tuttle, Peter Rowan, Laurie Lewis, Billy Strings, Tim Stafford, Claire Lynch, and Tim May. Tuttle’s sprightly Little Annie, Strings’ fluid medley of Give the Fiddler a Dram, Whistling Rufus, Ragtime Annie, Trey Hensely and Chris Luquette’s rapid-fire duet on I Don’t Love Nobody, and the two originals by Adam Schlenker and Adam Chowning, From Around the Bend and Walking with Winston, respectively, offer ample evidence of the instrumental finesse offered by all those involved.
Likewise, the sentimental trappings of Stafford’s Elizabeth, Lynch’s lovely adaptation of All Through the Night, and Lewis’ lilting read of the oft-covered Red River Valley leave a remarkable emotional imprint as well. It’s easy to imagine that these artists were not only making it a point to pay homage to Thompson, but also to share their own devotion to this truly remarkable music.
To be sure, the album isn’t exclusively about guitars. Fiddles, mandolin, bass, and banjo also embellish these songs, bringing taste and texture in rich abundance.
In a sense then, Hand Made To Hand Played carries on a legacy heard both in song and through the artists for whom the music means so much. A wonderful and, in many ways, remarkable compilation, it’s an album that finds common ground between both emotion and execution.