Special Consensus - Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute To John Denver

Compass Records
74627 2

It’s been long overdue, but finally one of the leading bluegrass bands—along with some special guests—pay tribute to the late John Denver, one of my favourite singer-songwriters of the 1970s. Special Consensus is a masterful and innovative bluegrass quartet that has come a long way since it first started performing in America’s Midwest in the mid-1970s. Banjoist Greg Cahill formed the band in 1975 in his hometown of Chicago, and he’s still there at the helm guiding Special Consensus through numerous personnel changes. He has assembled some skilled singers and musicians in Rick Faris (mandolin), Dustin Benson (guitar) and Dan Eubanks (bass) to give the band a brilliant, fresh sound. In addition producer Alison Brown has drafted in such special guests as Dale Ann Bradley, Jason Carter, Mike Cleveland, John Cowan, Rob Ickes, Jim Lauderdale, Claire Lynch, Peter Rowan, Buddy Spicher and Rhonda Vincent to make this an extra special all-star bluegrass tribute to one of the finest singer-songwriters of the 1970s.

There are ten well-known John Denver songs performed in the band’s unique and distinctive style with the award-winning special guest singers and musicians adding to the overall quality and inventive arrangements. From the infectious Wild Montana Skies featuring the duet vocals of Claire Lynch and Rick Faris and the Dobro of Rob Ickes, to the rambling arrangement of Rocky Mountain High, this album is infused with the best of American music. The various musicians play well together, never cluttering the musical landscape with unnecessary flourishes. One of my early favourites of John Denver’s many songs has always been the reflective Poems, Prayers And Promises. Way back this was very much a life-affirming song for me, and I fondly recall autumn evenings listening to this song and wishing for a fulfilled life like that. Jim Lauderdale offers an uncharacteristic subdued vocal with delicate harmonies by Rick Farris and Dustin Benson to recreate for me those memories from over 40 years ago. Then there is the mainly instrumental romp through Thank God I’m A Country Boy with Buddy Spicher and Mike Cleveland’s fiddles and the banjos of Alison Brown and Greg Cahill interlocking perfectly. From one classic song to another they just keep getting it right! The addition of bluegrass instrumentation to these songs puts a deliciously fresh spin on them. John Denver may never be the same for me. Highly recommended.

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