Scott Vestal, et al- Bluegrass 2022 review

Scott Vestal, et al Bluegrass 2022 Pinecastle

Bluegrass 2022 is the ninth in a series of instrumental bluegrass sets featuring Scott Vestal (banjo) and whomever he is playing with at the time. The series began in 1995 and ran consecutively until 2001 before being resurrected in 2020. This latest volume features Cody Kilby (guitar), Byron House (bass), Tim Crouch (fiddle), Randy Kohrs (reso), and Jonah Horton (mandolin).

As have the previous volumes, Vestal and his partners select a handful of well-known tunes and songs, and go at ‘em. The lead single was the David Grisman number “EMD” (Eat My Dust), and boy—that is fairly appropriate. Few could keep up with this assemblage of acoustic bluegrass masters.

Material from the traditional (“John Hardy,” “Train 45,” “Blackberry Blossom”) are set alongside that of Bill Monroe (“Gold Rush”), John Hartford (“Steam Powered Aereo Plane”), and Tony Rice (“Tipper”).

Needless to say, the playing is incredible and filled with power and verve. Yes, we have heard every one of these songs a hundred times and more, and a couple may even be considered jam busters, but in these hands? Come on. This is how all who love bluegrass wish they could play.

If you are just getting into bluegrass, Bluegrass 2022 is a pretty good launch point. A bit more seasoned? This set will smooth out your crusty cynicism: you haven’t heard it all before.  Even a number as tired as “John Henry” is completely revitalized by this group. Vestal’s playing is placed in the middle, but the band definitely includes no shrunken flowers. In particular, Kilby’s guitar playing here is killer.

“EMD” sounds as fresh and innovative as it ever did, while numbers like “Welcome to New York” and “Reuben” are presented as artfully as they deserve. Highlights include Kohrs’ playing on “EMD,” House’s on “Aereo Plane,” and Vassar Clements’ “Lonesome Fiddle Blues” in its entirety—an incredible ride that is! The cover art is striking while continuing the design theme of the series.

Previous editions have been awarded IBMA Awards and nominations; no reason to believe this set will not be similarly well received.

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