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  The Other Side of the Mountain
Artist: Various
Label:  Records
Length: 12 tracks / 47:53 minutes

Instrumentals are the highlights on this Compass Records Bluegrass, Newgrass and Beyond compilation. But the lead track, “Fair Weather” (which features country giant Vince Gill on lead vocals) by Alison Brown, sets the standard pretty high for the album by encompassing all that this is homey and heartwarming about bluegrass--fancy pickin’ and sweet harmonies.

But keen musicianship shines through brilliantly on the tracks that leave the vocals out back behind the shed. “City Chickens” by Matt Flinner, “Dixie Hoedown” by Phillips, Grier & Flinner, “Coal Burnin’ Grease Fire” by Anger/Marshall Band and “Late On Arrival” by the Alison Brown Quartet are well-crafted instrumentals that inspire foot-tappin’, knee slappin’ grins.

Alison Brown (with Sam Bush) pull off a “Newgrass” coup by covering the punk/new wave master Elvis Costello’s “Every Day I Write the Book.”

On the other hand, “Zenergy” by Victor Wooten pushes “Newgrass” too far over the county line with a jazzy saxophone overlaying more traditional banjo and bass. (Somewhere a backwoods purist is spittin’ in this track’s general direction.)

With record store shelves still smattered with bluegrass clippings shaken from the Hollywood musical mower that was the Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, one might dismiss this as “just another countrified cash crop” harvest. These artists are the real deal, tough, and, sadly, it’s only with the help of cinematic overkill that bluegrass has been given renewed credibility.

Greg Adams 11/10/02



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