I can't believe no one's reviewed this here. Ever since a friend in Berlin turned me onto this 20 years ago I've thought it's one of the finest bluegrass recordings of them all. (Thanks and howdy to Chris Dreschner, a fine picker himself!)
Chief amongst its instrumental glories is the sublime playing of Clarence White, later famous for his work with the Byrds, but at his very best here, to my ears. Just check out his wonderful version of Listen To The Mockingbird, easily some of the best crosspicking I've ever encountered. His miraculously deft and musical touch is married to an ear for ringing harmonies which he crisply stops at just the right moments, and his technique is almost unbelievably tight.
And he was 19 when this was recorded!
Incredible. I've been working on that version of LTTM for almost 20 years and while I can play it "right", I've still never gotten the touch and lightness that Clarence had. Few have; Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas and Jerry Garcia were among White's many fans, and even they admit they never quite captured that evanescent yet blazing edge that Clarence had (though Jerry's dobro work sure comes close). Clarence had a true gift, and I've always thought he must have been one of the Lord's favorite pickers.
But his family was showered with gifts, as his brother Roland is almost as great on mandolin. He rips it up on this killer Nine Pound Hammer, with Bill Ray Latham's lickety-split banjo egging him and Clarence on at every turn. One of the best versions you'll ever hear of that chestnut.
Other genre classics like Bill Henry, Billy In The Low Ground, and Wild Bill Jones are similarly fine (there sure must have been a lot of Bills around back in the day!); in fact there's not a dud on this album, just pure quality all the way.
It's jaw-dropping to think these were a bunch of teenagers. They must have made a lot of old pickers hang their heads back then, as this is as good as it gets, pretty much. Always tight, always right, exceptionally musical, and full of fire and shining good feelings; they really locked in as a unit and were always aware of what the others were playing at every moment. Perfection.
If you like The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, The Osbornes, and any other of the bluegrass masters, and don't have Appalachian Swing, all I can say is, brother, you've got a treat comin' that will make you smile from here to the moon. The Kentucky Colonels were the real deal all the way home, and this is their finest recording. It's a solid remaster, by the way, and features three new cuts almost as sweet as the original 12 tracks. What a treat to get more from the Colonels in their prime.
Absolutely and unreservedly recommended to all fans of bluegrass, country, acoustic pickin', and exceptionally musical music in general.
And if you play guitar and haven't heard Clarence White at his best, prepare for a master class in what that box can really do.