BOBBY OSBORNE & THE ROCKY TOP X-PRESS, “Memories,” Rural Rhythm. 14 tracks.
Bobby Osborne celebrated his 79th birthday on Dec. 7.
“Memories,” his latest album, marks his 60 years as a professional entertainer.
But it’s a little late.
Osborne began his career with the Miami Valley Playboys in Middletown, Ohio, in 1947.
By the time, he joined the legendary Lonesome Pine Fiddlers in 1949, he had also performed with the Silver Saddle Boys in Welch, W. Va., and Rex & Eleanor Parker in Bluefield, W. Va.
In 1951, he worked with the Stanley Brothers.
After his service with the U.S. Marines in the Korea War, Osborne and his younger brother, Sonny, joined with Jimmy Martin to form a group.
But by 1958, Bobby and Sonny were working full time as the Osborne Brothers.
They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1964, were named vocal group of the year by the Country Music Association in 1971, became the first bluegrass act to play the White House in 1973 and were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 1994.
When rotator-cuff surgery in late 2004 forced Sonny Osborne to stop playing the banjo, the last of the great first-generation bluegrass brother acts was history.
But Bobby Osborne wasn’t ready to retire.
He formed a new band — The Rocky Top X-Press — and hit the road.
He’s in the bluegrass Hall of Fame twice — with the Osborne Brothers and with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers.
But as “Memories” shows, Bobby Osborne is not an oldies act. He’s still a vital force in bluegrass.
His duet with Patty Loveless on the title cut, a song he wrote, is beautiful — one of the best duets you’ll hear this year in country or bluegrass.
“With A Pain In My Heart,” the first of the more than 75 songs he’s written, was first recorded in 1949. Osborne performs it here with Audie Blaylock.
“I’ve Seen It All,” written by Daryl Mosley, sets Osborne’s biography to music — “I’ve roared through my life with my foot on the pedal,” he sings.
Russell Moore joins Osborne on “Mountain Fever” and traditional Japanese musician Takeharu Kunimoto plays the traditional Japanese three-stringed shamisen on “Up This Hill And Down.”
Osborne is joined by an all-star lineup for two instrumentals — “Man From Rosine” and “Bobby Van Waltz.” Glen Duncan, Ronnie McCoury, Sammy Shelor, David Harvey and David Grisman perform on the former and Grisman, Duncan, Harvey, McCoury and Mike Toppins on the latter.
Naturally, the album includes “Ruby,” the Osbornes first hit in 1956, and “Rocky Top,” their biggest hit from 1967.
Osborne is arguably the best tenor in bluegrass. And in his 80th year of life, he can still come close to hitting notes that only a dog could hear.
A must for Osborne Brothers fans.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.RuralRhythm.com