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CD: LARRY GILLIS – Swamp Folk

 

LARRY GILLIS
Swamp Folk
Swamp Folk – Blue Georgia Moon – Swamp Leach
– That Beautiful Picture – The Storybook – Sad Swamp Man – Long Journey
Home – Look At My Heart – Three Sheets In The Wind – Rovin’ On A Winter
Night – Fiddler’s Blues – Little Rose – I Wanna Die Easy – Two More
Years – Crazy Russian
 
I just finished reviewing Bobby Bare, and it couldn’t be
better than to have Dr. Swampgrass, Larry Gillis, come up next with his
amazing style of bluegrass and traditional country sound.  Larry Gillis
does two things with his music.  He keeps the traditional bluegrass
sound in all that he does, but at the same time he adds a very
‘original’ Larry Gillis sound to the mix, not only hard to do, but
incredibly authentic in the evolution of old-time acoustic music in it’s
many disguises.  Larry has no less than five original songs on this CD,
all of them right in the scope of anyone who likes authenticity at the
same time they like newness.  That is a combination hard to beat,
especially since Nashville has abandoned the ‘crown’ of authentic and
traditional country music.  Where to find that?  Easy, it’s down in
Georgia where Larry Gillis and the Swamp Folk abound.  Larry is the
driving force behind his own music, and he’s also the driving force on
his 5-string banjo sound.  He carries it full circle, for instance the
very folk-like sound of Stanley, to the hard driving sound of Scruggs,
add Gillis himself to it and you have an astonishing ‘new’ banjo sound,
bluegrass sound, original music sound, BUT it’s still within
the definition of the genre.  Add to the mix Alex Leach on guitar,
beautifully picking note for note what Larry does (especially on Swamp
Leach), and mandolin, and then add the fiddle of Ella Naiman Warde, a
young woman who plays the fiddle rough and ready like a swamp man.  Rafe
Waters on bass with some additional help on that instrument from Kristi
Gillis who is also Larry’s wife.   Larry has mellowed his voice a bit
since my last listen, and it sounds just right, perfect for this music,
perfect for the story songs he does, perfect for the lovely gospel songs
he includes.  Add the typical tight harmony of nearly all good
bluegrass bands, and you can begin to realize how very good Dr.
Swampgrass is.  He’s authentic and original, I doubt you could take that
out of him, but more importantly, he has a great respect for good
bluegrass music, authentic and traditional, as well as original and
fun.  Here’s a nice surprise, on “Sad Swamp Man” one of the best songs
on this CD, Larry plays what I believe to be an open-back banjo, but it
sounds just like a powerful lap dulcimer.  What an absolutely beautiful
original sound coming from this very masculine swamp man from Georgia. 
Gentle, sweet, sorrowful, story telling, absolutely stunning.  His
vocalization on this song gives me shivers, it’s remarkable. The entire
CD is chock full of great songs from the past, and those five brand new
ones from Larry, creating a listening experience we don’t get much
anymore, and need more of.  This is the real deal, the soul searching
and response to the music so transparently missing in country music
today from Nashville.  Larry Gillis is not only carrying the heavy load
of ‘tradition’ he also has on his other shoulder ‘originality’ and boy
does he blend them well.  This CD goes immediately to the Rural Roots
Music Commission.  Larry won “Traditional Bluegrass CD of the Year” in
2014.  The Commission sure has it’s work cut out for them. 
Congratulations to my favorite Southern bluegrasser.
REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART – www.ntcma.net 
for Country Music News International Magazine

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