Doyle Lawson turned 75 this year.
When we think about pioneers of bluegrass, Doyle Lawson’s name isn’t usually mentioned, coming as he did as a ‘second-wave’ performer. But the guy has been around, and more than just about anyone raised the expectations for bluegrass gospel.
A member of Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys as a teenager, Lawson was in the late sixties a Kentucky Mountain Boy with J. D. Crowe before spending the majority of the 70s as a Country Gentleman. Forty years ago he released Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and more than forty albums later here we are with a live set recorded in the Czech Republic on a single evening in January 2019.
Doyle Lawson knows bluegrass. He remains one of the industry’s best draws, and no matter who he employs, they rise to the heady levels he has established. Newest member of Quicksilver, Jake Vanover, makes his recording debut with the group, and quickly establishes himself with the plaintive country number “Living Like There’s No Tomorrow.”
Familiar numbers abound, including “Back In My Baby’s Arms Again” and Bill Monroe’s “Shenandoah Breakdown.” A big treat is a second Monroe song, the classic “Out in the Cold World,” appearing late in the 47-minute set. Reaching back to The News is Out from 1987—and my first DLQ album—the group nails “I’ll Be True While You’re Gone” and “She’s Walking Through My Memory.” “Julianne” is from the same era, and “Jealous” is just a bit more recent; all are well-executed by this latest Quicksilver lineup.
I can’t locate “Leaving on Her Mind”—the Charley Pride, Bobby Bare, Mac Wiseman song—on a previous Quicksilver recording, and this arrangement breathes life into a rather pedestrian song. “Driving It Home” is a new song that kicks off the album with some energy. The album doesn’t really slow down too much outside the gospel portion mid-set, and closes with a bit of flash as the band whips through the “Clinch Mountain Backstep” and the previously mentioned “Julianne.” The incredible vocal showcases “I’m Going To Heaven” and “On the Sea of Life”—which goes back as bought as far as does Quicksilver—provide the gospel quotient mandatory for a DLQ set.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver are a band that strikes rather strong emotions. Most folks love ‘em, and for others they hold little appeal—too strident, too polished. I tend to vacillate between those positions, and I found myself enjoying just about everything on this live set excepting “Little Girl,” a song that is too manipulative for me. Others will disagree.
I recommend Live In Prague. It captures the emotions and energy of a live set from one of bluegrass music’s superior and enduring bands.