Jeff Molnar

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March 11, 2003

Album Review

The two-CD 2002 Greenbriar Boys compilation, Best of the Vanguard Years, rounded up the large majority of songs the group released on the Vanguard label in the 1960s. Although it doesn't say so in the liner notes, Big Apple Bluegrass seems to gather every additional scrap the band cut for the company between 1961 and 1966, as none of the 17 songs appeared on Best of the Vanguard Years. These tracks include various cuts from their three proper Vanguard LPs (The Greenbriar Boys, Ragged but Right!, and Better Late Than Never) that didn't make it onto Best of the Vanguard Years, a track each that had previously appeared on the various-artists compilations The Sound of Folk Music, Vol. 2 and The New Folks, and no less than seven previously unreleased cuts from studio outtakes and rehearsal sessions (five of them outtakes from their 1962 self-titled debut LP). While this might be a roundup of leftovers, actually the quality's about the same as it is on Best of the Vanguard Years. It's top-notch bluegrass, and only the absence of what turned out to be their most famous recording, the original version of Michael Nesmith's "Different Drum" (later recorded for a big hit by Linda Ronstadt with the Stone Poneys), might make this a less preferable introductory anthology than Best of the Vanguard Years. Certainly the outtakes don't disgrace their legacy, with "Mississippi Sawyer" being a really hot, fast-paced instrumental and "Danville Girl" and "Shine on Me" doleful country-folk tunes. Most of the material is traditional, though the covers of country songs by George Jones ("Love Bug") and Jim Reeves ("Honky Tonk Girl"), both from 1966's Better Late Than Never, show them expanding into the contemporary country repertoire with satisfactory results.
Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Love Bug
  2. Darby Ram
  3. Methodist Pie
  4. Mississippi Sawyer [#][Instrumental]
  5. Danville Girl [#]
  6. Coot from Tennessee
  7. The Great Assembly [#]
  8. Take a Whiff on Me
  9. Cabin in Gloryland [#]
  10. Honky Tonk Girl
  11. Gotta Travel On [#]
  12. Way Down in the Country
  13. Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down [#]
  14. Rambling Round
  15. Stay All Night
  16. Shine on Me [#]
  17. Roll on John
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