this is the third installment of IncaRoads’ gifts:
While David Grisman & others were pioneering a sophisticated bluegrass/jazz fusion called “Dawg”, the New Grass Revival were crossbreeding bluegrass with contemporary trends in rock and other strains of Americana. Banjos and mandolins are here in plenty (and expertly played at that), but electric guitars, basses, drums, and pianos creep in the mix from time to time as well.
As you can guess, I favor the driving acoustic tracks over the slow ballads and electric stomps. But I do have a special place in my ear for White Freightliner Blues, having grown up with my father singing it in his bluegrass band. Vamp in the Middle (by the late Townes Van Zandt) is quite compelling too, especially the superb and unusual fiddling. Some really stunning instrumental work towards the end too, on Tennessee Wagoner, Colly Davis, and especially Crooked Smile. In fact, it’s worth it to get the album for Crooked Smile, in my opinion. The vocals aren’t bad, but are rather unremarkable compared to the high lonesome style of traditional bluegrassers.
Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine & David Vinopal:
New Grass Revival, formed in 1972 by four former members of the Bluegrass Alliance, flourished in a decade when numerous groups took traditional bluegrass and changed it to varying degrees. The group was successful enough to have the group’s name become a generic label: “newgrass.” The band’s image, with long hair and occasionally electrified instruments, as well as its musical material contrasted greatly with standard (traditional) bluegrass like that played by Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, the Lilly Brothers, and Lester Flatt’s band. In terms of longevity, popularity, and exposure, the Revival, with its hip reputation, was perhaps the most successful in competition against II Generation, Seldom Scene, the Country Gentlemen, and others.
The origins of New Grass Revival lay in the Bluegrass Alliance, which Sam Bush (vocals, fiddle, guitar, mandolin) and Courtney Johnson (banjo, vocals) joined in 1970. At the time, the Alliance also featured bassist Ebo Walker and fiddler Lonnie Peerce. Within a year after Bush’s and Johnson’s arrival, Curtis Burch (dobro, guitar, vocals) joined the band. In 1972, Peerce left the band, and the remaining members decided to continue under a new name — New Grass Revival. The band released their eponymous debut, Arrival of the New Grass Revival, later that year on Starday Records.
After the release of their debut, Walker parted ways with the band, and the group replaced him with Butch Robbins, who was only with the band for a short time. He was replaced by John Cowan, an Evansville, IN, native. This lineup was stable throughout the ’70s, recording a number of albums for Flying Fish Records. As their name suggested, New Grass Revival never played traditional bluegrass — all of the members brought elements of rock & roll, jazz, and blues to the group’s sound. Consequently, certain portions of the bluegrass community scorned them, but they also gained a devoted following of listeners who believed they were moving the genre in a new, fresh direction. (AMG)
“When The Storm Is Over” continues to solidify the New Grass Revival as America’s premier progressive bluegrass band. All of the elements that would become the band’s trademarks throughout their existence are already evident; innovation, distinctive interpretation, superb presentation, excellent writing and song selection, not to mention their unsurpassed musical abilities.
New Grass Revival – When The Storm Is Over
Year: 1977 (lp), reissue 1992
Label: Flying Fish, reissued by Rounder
This is the complete 1977 album, which was reissued as half of a two-fer. So the tracks are:
11 Four Days Of Rain 03:39
12 White Freightliner Blues 02:38
13 Sail To Australia 03:48
14 When The Storm Is Over 02:40
15 And He Says “I Love You” 03:42
16 Vamp In The Middle 03:44
17 Like A Child In The Rain 03:48
18 Tennessee Wagoner 01:32
19 Colly Davis 02:42
20 Crooked Smile 07:42