Here are my picks for the best bluegrass albums of 2010:
The Boxcars, The Boxcars: The Boxcars are a new group with a veteran lineup. When people call them a supergroup, they're not kidding. Members have played with the likes of Alison Krauss and J.D. Crowe. The band's sound leans toward the country side of bluegrass — a reminder that there was a time when bluegrass was part of country music
Balsam Range, Trains I Missed: Balsam Range melds country, gospel, bluegrass and Old English ballads into a sound that is both traditional and contemporary. Trains I Missed shows why bluegrass fans should pay attention to Balsam Range.
Randy Kohrs, Quicksand: Kohrs' resophonic guitar has appeared on more than 500 CDs, but he's a lot more than a sideman. He's also a first-class singer-songwriter. Quicksand is classified as an acoustic album, rather than bluegrass, because it pushes boundaries. It pushes them in an exciting way.
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Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, At Edwards Barn: Most musicians can only dream of the sort of careers that Hillman and Pedersen have had. The 15 songs on the album are really a career retrospective done bluegrass style.
The SteelDrivers, Reckless: The SteelDrivers roared out of Nashville in 2008 with a sound that's best described as "outlaw grass." But this is the last album with the original lineup. That's a reason for fans to check it out.
The Grascals, The Famous Lefty Flynn's: The Grascals burst onto the bluegrass scene in 2005 with a self-titled album featuring Dolly Parton on an award-winning grassed-up version of Elvis' Viva Las Vegas. The Grascals are still taking chances, trying new things while sticking to the sound that brought them fans and honors, including Lefty Flynn's use of steel guitars on three tracks, plus drums, a mandola and a viola — instruments not typically found on bluegrass albums
Josh Williams, Down Home: In 1993, Pete "Dr. Banjo" Wernick put together a band that he called the Bluegrass Youth All-Stars to perform at the International Bluegrass Music Association awards show in Owensboro. The band included Williams on banjo.
Now, Williams is on his own with his first solo album since Lonesome Highway. His tenor/baritone vocals rank him among the top male singers in the genre as well.
Don Rigsby and Midnight Call, The Voice of God: Too many bluegrass gospel albums fail to challenge listeners. They stick with the tried-and-true songs and sounds. But Rigsby presents story songs that make you think about the message. The album's highlight is Forgiveness.
Dailey and Vincent, Dailey and Vincent Sing The Statler Brothers: The Statler Brothers hit the road with Johnny Cash in 1964 and racked up 33 Top 10 country singles before their retirement in 2002. Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent — the hottest act in bluegrass music — are counted among their rabid fans, and they saluted them with this outstanding collection of Statler Brothers songs available in Cracker Barrel stores.
Joe Diffie, Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album: The only thing you can say about an album like this is: Wow, what took so long? This is the album that Diffie was born to make. His voice isn't high, but voices don't come more lonesome than his.