JOE DIFFIE, “Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album,” Rounder. 12 tracks.

The only thing you can say about an album like this is: Wow, what took so long?

This is the album Joe Diffie was born to make. His voice isn’t high, but voices don’t come more lonesome than his.

Diffie burst on the country music scene in 1990, topping the charts with a song called, “Home.”

And for awhile, the hits just kept on coming — “If The Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets),” “Third Rock From The Sun,” “Pickup Man.”

But 1995’s “Bigger Than The Beatles” was Diffie’s last No. 1 and 2004’s “Tougher Than Nails” was his last Top 20 song.

In fact, 2004 marked Diffie’s last studio album

There were reports in recent years that he was planning a return to bluegrass, where he started in the mid-’80s. And last year, when Rounder released Diffie’s “The Ultimate Collection,” a lot of people expected that to be the long-awaited bluegrass album.

But it turned out to be just a re-recording of some of Diffie’s biggest country hits.

“Homecoming” — a title that refers to his return to bluegrass where he started his career with the Oklahoma-based The Special Edition — is finally the album that bluegrass fans have waited years for.

And it’s definitely worth the wait.

Diffie assembled an all-star cast to help with his homecoming — The Grascals, Rhonda Vincent, Bradley Walker, Alecia Nugent, Rob Ickes, Aubrey Haynie, Mike Compton, Bryan Sutton, Mark Fain and Charlie Cushman.

“Homecoming” kicks off with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs’ “Somehow Tonight,” and jumps into “Lonesome and Dry As A Bone,” a somewhat spooky tale of death and loneliness written by Diffie and Shawn Camp.

“Tennessee Tea” is a song that dates back to The Special Edition days, a hard-driving tale of a man using moonshine to get over a woman — by burning it in his gas tank.

“Fit For A King” is the story of a ragged street preacher who will someday wear clothes fit for a king. “Route 5 Box 109” is an uptempo nostalgia song about driving and dreaming of home. “Rainin’ On Her Rubber Dolly” is about missing a daughter lost through divorce.

“Til Death” is a murder ballad. And “Free and Easy” is about the heavy price of being free.

Definitely an album worth checking out.

Can’t find it in stores? Try www.Rounder.com.

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