The six men who make up the group known as Longview, (Dudley Connell, Glen Duncan, James King, Joe Mullins, Don Rigsby and Marshall Wilborn), were hardly unknowns before that propitious day in December 1995 when they gathered to record their landmark first album, the eponymous Longview. Dudley Connell was acclaimed for his work with the Johnson Mountain Boys and the Seldom Scene. Don Rigsby was one of the shining lights of the perennially popular Lonesome River Band. James King had enjoyed a stint with Ralph Stanley, and had been touring with his own band since 1988. Glen Duncan was renowned for his fiddle playing and had performed with artists ranging from Bill Monroe to Reba McEntire. Joe Mullins was co-founder of the Traditional Grass, a band which became a leading force in bluegrass during his 12 year tenure, and bassist Marshall Wilborn had honed his skills with Whetstone Run, Jimmy Martin, the Johnson Mountain Boys and the Lynn Morris Band. So why Longview? After all, "all-star" projects were hardly a new concept in 1995, and many of these collaborations had failed to meet their lofty expectations. How did these six artists not only meet, but also exceed all the expectations. The answer is simple, really. The combination worked. Beautifully. And the real significance of Longview is that it still works, evidenced again on this, their third album, Lessons In Stone.
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Frankly, there is not a weak cut on this CD. When these guys are together, it's pure magic from start to finish. If forced to choose a track, however, that best exemplifies the "sound" that is unmistakably Longview, "Faded Red Ribbon" would be a good place to start. Here, they take a song that could easily sound tired and mundane in the hands of lesser mortals, and give it a life it has arguably never seen. The trio harmony of James, Dudley and Don is sharp enough to shave granite, and Glen Duncan's triple fiddle work is sweepingly majestic. "I've Lived A Lot In My Time" is a straight-ahead, hard-driving number, complete with a powerful Scruggs-esque banjo kick-off courtesy of Joe Mullins, and immaculate rhythmic timing from the rest of the band. The title cut, "Lessons in Stone," is a song with a message that all of us would do well to consider in these troubled times. Once again, Glen Duncan's triple fiddle playing shines, at once both warm and comfortable, yet filled with melancholy. In common parlance, it exudes soul. The mid-tempo instrumental "The Lost Cave" gives everyone a chance to step to the front, each one adding his own unique interpretation of this evocative and beautifully mysterious melody. And let's not forget Mr. Wilborn. His gifted, yet unobtrusive bass playing forms the solid and unshakable foundation for the entire CD. This CD is as tasty a bluegrass treat as any that you're ever likely to hear. In fact, it's a full-course, meat-and-potatoes auditory feast, fit for the finest of tables. Enjoy!
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