Bluegrass review: Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press

CorrespondentApril 12, 2009 

  • Bluegrass and Beyond

    Three stars

For more than a half-century, Bobby Osborne's bright keening tenor has reigned as one of the most distinctive voices in bluegrass. With his banjo-picking brother Sonny, the Osborne Brothers earned a well-deserved berth in the bluegrass hall of fame for a body of work that includes such classics as the immortal anthem "Rocky Top."

Sonny is retired from performing, but Bobby soldiers on fronting his crack outfit, the Rocky Top X-Press. And at 77, neither his resonant voice nor his crisp chops on mandolin suggest retirement any time soon. The dozen tracks on "Bluegrass and Beyond" are clearly bluegrass songs, but Osborne moves "beyond" 'grass for country, country-rock, and old-time gems.

Osborne joins Marty Stuart for a faith-affirming duet on the Monroe Brothers' classic gospel shout, "What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?" With "After the Fire is Gone," he and Rhonda Vincent reprise (bluegrass-style) the Conway Twitty-Loretta Lynn chart-topper of 1971. And Osborne transforms the late Eddie Rabbit's "Drivin' My Life Away" from a country-rocker to full-throttle bluegrass breakdown.

As restless with music as he is a road warrior, Osborne covers Jerry Reed's "Let's Sing Our Song," and the Eagles' "Girl from Yesterday." And he professes his faith with the Ira-Louvin penned Connie Smith gospel number, "Way Up on the Mountain."

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