Grassmasters | Taylor Grass

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Taylor Grass

by Grassmasters

James Taylor\'s material has a plain spoken, down to earth qulaity that translates beautifully into the Bluegrass idiom.
Genre: Country: Bluegrass
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Carolina On My Mind
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3:01 album only
2. Copperline
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3:57 album only
3. Shower the People
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3:50 album only
4. Sweet Baby James
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2:58 album only
5. You've Got A Friend
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3:17 album only
6. Only One
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3:44 album only
7. Fire and Rain
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3:40 album only
8. Your Smiling Face
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3:02 album only
9. Sarah Maria
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2:46 album only
10. Never Die Young
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4:20 album only
11. Mexico
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3:09 album only
12. Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
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2:13 album only


Album Notes
Bluegrass music with its characteristic fusion of country, acoustic instruments and high energy, has wound its way through contemporary Rock, Jazz, R&B and Gospel. This series is designed to come full circle. Following the folk process and its evolution, we return to the roots of those influences and pay tribute to one of the most heartfelt and free form styles of American musical expression. This hand-picked group of extraordinary players has professional ties with Bill Monroe, The Everly Brothers, James Taylor and many others including regular appearances on the Grand Ol\' Opry stage. These interpretations bring home the essence of what makes music in life such a gratifying experience. This compilation moves through the extensive career of James Taylor. Featuring Charlie Chadwick, David Spicher, Vic Jordan, Fred Newell, Tommy White, Andy Lewis, Bill Hullett, Jeff Taylor, & Darrin Vincent.


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Joe Ross

Falls a bit short
What an ambitious project from a new kid on the bluegrass block, two-year-old Synergy Entertainment in New York! The Grass Series boasts a total collection of 15 albums that tapped professional Nashville-based artists to cover music from other genres. Produced by Donald Marrow, their intent is to present rock, pop, gospel and kid’s music in an acoustic bluegrass format. I recommend starting with the “Best ‘uv Grass” 14-song sampler (just over 40 minutes) that has hand-picked favorite tracks from each album in the collection.

The “Grassmasters” hired for the session work have some impressive talent. There are also a few pickers who could’ve been more proficient in the bluegrass idiom. Tommy White (Dobro) is a master musician who appears on all 15 albums. On a majority are Billy Hullett (guitars), Tammy Rogers (fiddle, mandolin), Hoot Hester (fiddle, mandolin), Fred Newell (mandolin), Vic Jordan (banjo), Daniel O’Lannerghty or Charlie Chadwick (bass). Andrea Zonn fiddles on a third of them, and she provides some short-lived smooth vocalizing on two albums. Where there are multiple players of the same instrument or various vocalists, liner notes don’t clearly indicate who is on what cut. Every once in awhile, the moon and stars align and a few special renditions jump out at you. More often, however, the goal of producing a large volume of material in a short period of time seems to have led to problematic issues with arrangement, instrumentation, or presentation. Occasionally sounding contrived and formulaic, the music loses some of its bluegrass spirit, energy and passion.

The earlier releases (StonesGrass, BeatlesGrass, EaglesGrass and FleetwoodGrass) have no vocals. These four (as well as AeroGrass) also include Bob Mater’s drums. He’s steady, but bluegrass aficionados may want this primarily instrumental music without percussion and just let the mandolin chop the backbeat. BeatlesGrass could’ve used some stronger banjo work. Interestingly, liner notes don’t provide a credit for the banjo in the mix of the DeadGrass project. Most likely Vic Jordan, he must’ve been forgotten that day.

With the exception of the 15-song KidsGrass and 14-song Best’uvGrass, the other CDs each offer twelve selections. The albums range from a low of 28 minutes (ElvisGrass) to nearly 49 minutes (EaglesGrass). While the former includes some refrains courtesy of The Jordanaires, song arrangements are short and typically only about two minutes apiece. The latter has a number of 4- and 5-minute renditions of Eagles tunes, but there are no vocals. Where’s the happy medium that provides for thoughtful, creative arrangements with both instrumental and vocal prowess? With their slogan of “Please Keep on the Grass,” this series is worth checking out if you’re in search of passable instrumental bluegrass covers of the material. If you’re into karaoke, it’s fun to sing with bluegrass accompaniment. I commend Synergy Entertainment for realizing the market potential associated with bluegrass musicians tapping material from other genres. We can expect better and better music from them as they work out a few bugs, establish their reputation, and develop stronger credibility.

All things considered, here are a few observations on this specific album, only one in the entire 15-CD Grass Series:

** TaylorGrass runs 40 minutes, and some vocals from Clara Adams and Darrin Vincent (“Shower The People”) are complemented with top instrumental work. This is the only album in the series that features fiddler Andy Lewis. Because the lyrics are so important in James Taylor’s songs, this album falls short by not giving us enough vocalizing, but don’t be shy about belting out Taylor’s big commercial breakthrough, “Fire and Rain,” right along with them. James’ music isn’t the same without a soothing voice reflecting on the sixties. The Grass Series would’ve earned top marks with a little more forethought on how to best cover this great singer/songwriter’s material. The Grassmasters should have also considered recording some of Taylor’s other hits, “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” (written by Marvin Gaye) and Jimmy Jones’ “Handy Man.”