THE McPEAK BROTHERS, “Yesteryears: The Best of the McPeak Brothers,” Rebel Vault Masters. 14 tracks.

The Virginia-based McPeak Brothers — Udell, Dewey and Larry — began performing in 1963. A couple of years later, Udell left to work with Red Smiley and younger brother, Mike, stepped in.

That’s the lineup most fans remember.

Their peak years were between 1977 and 1983, when the trio cut three albums for the County and Rebel labels.

Their voices blended in a way that made audiences sit up and take notice.

There was a lonesome quality to their singing that brought out the best in sad songs like “The Last Time,” a story-song about a Confederate solider coming home to his family and pregnant girlfriend in a flag-draped coffin.

Songs like a bluegrass versions of Merle Haggard’s “Shelly’s Winter Love” and “Living With The Shades Pulled Down,” their classic “Simon Crutchfield’s Grave” and Michael Martin Murphey’s “Lost River” captured the ears and hearts of a lot of fans.

But Dewey and Mike didn’t want to quit their day jobs and the band began traveling less and less in the 1980s.

There was a brief resurgence, starting in 1992, but the McPeaks had a lot more talent than success.

In the liner notes to this compilation of 14 tracks culled from the three albums of 1977, 1978 and 1983, Mike McPeak says he regrets not following his dreams. “If I had it to do over, I’d do it (go full time into music) in a second,” he says.

Fans can only wish that life would give the McPeaks a do-over.

Other songs on the album include “Back To Dixie,” “Bend in the River,” “Steel Rails,” “Kentucky Road,” “Preachin’ Up A Storm” and Larry McPeak’s “Yesteryears.”

Musicians featured on the cuts include Jim Buchanan, Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, Rickie Simpkins, Paul Gazell, Gene Elders and Jeff Midkiff.

A great collection by a great band that deserves more recognition than it’s had.

Can’t find it in stores? Try www.CountySales.com and click on “Rebel Records Catalog.”

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