home listen reviews a-z

Tony Rice


Not a lick or a word short of fascinating. On top of being a precious and world class lesson from Tony Rice, one of the acoustic immortals from the Flatt & Scruggs and Clarence White schools, Happy Traum (interviewed in this issue) asks very musically astute questions that reveal little or unknown things about Tony's background, the real story behind the legendary Pizza tapes of Tony, David Grisman, and the late Jerry Garcia, the illuminating details of legendary collaborations between he and Ricky Skaggs, Tony's retrospection of how the Folk movement of the 60s actually "legitimized" Bluegrass as an art form (not just a hillbilly pastime), and many other things.

I enjoyed how, in many passages, there were separate screens depicting what the left and right hands were doing. (After all, how is one supposed to know which one the viewer needs to see more at that moment?) As a good musician himself, Happy Traum points up various things the artist is doing that he may take for granted. At one point, for instance, Happy voiced a question from his brother Artie on the important subject of how Tony was using open strings to change positions seamlessly.

As much as a guitar lesson, what this tape also does is hang you out, so to speak, with Tony Rice and Happy Traum. Not many ardent fans of this flatpicking maestro will find themselves in his close company, but that's where you feel you are for the duration of this recording.

 David & Tony

Rather than just the type of improvisational flatpicking that you might see Tony do with a rhythm section behind him, this class more demonstrates how he might approach the tune solo, or how he simply might play the "head" (or state the melody, in other words) in a combo setting. This is especially interesting to people who play solo with a flatpick and would like to pick a chord-y solo in between sections, or to duos that may feature only one guitar. He laid down a chord melody version with substitutions of "Barbara Allen" that grabbed me by my heartstrings. And on the other hand, there was a very funky read on the Delmore Brothers' "Blue Railroad Train" (which was on his classic Manzanita record), and jazzier takes on "Summertime" and "Wayfaring Stranger," really great stuff.

For fans of Tony Rice, flat top guitar, bluegrass, and those who want to better their own picking, it's something you need for your collection. It also comes with a booklet charting all the tunes therein, in standard musical notation and tablature.
• Frank Goodman

master class listen to clips
return to covers
buy it here or here
puremusic home