BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “The Touch of Time,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

Bill Emerson hasn’t always been around.

It just seems like it.

Emerson, who turns 74 this month, stands with Earl Scruggs, Don Reno and a handful of others as one of the most influential banjo players in bluegrass.

His 57-year career began with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.

Two years later, Emerson joined with the late Charlie Waller and others to create The Country Gentlemen, one of the top acts in bluegrass.

In 1959, he began moving around.

First, the Stoneman Family. Then, Bill Harrell, Red Allen, Jimmy Martin and Cliff Waldron’s New Shades of Grass.

It was with Waldron in 1968 that Emerson’s banjo turned Manfred Mann‘s folk-rock song, “Fox on the Run,” into a bluegrass classic.

He returned to the Gentlemen in 1969 for four years and then began a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, leading the Navy’s bluegrass band Country Current.

In 2007, Waldron formed Sweet Dixie and began yet another successful run in bluegrass.

“The Touch of Time” takes its name from a song by Chris Stifel, the band’s guitar player, that looks at the aging process. “As we get older, we glance over our shoulder and feel the touch of time,” it says.

It’s mostly an uptempo album, even on the sad songs.

“My Baby Thinks He’s A Train,” a No. 1 country hit for Rosanne Cash in 1981, is the first single off the album. Bass player Teri Chism, one of the band’s three lead signers, makes the song her own.

Emerson wrote three of the banjo tunes on the album — “These Ones,” “Electric Avenue” and “Home Sweet Dixie Home,” the latter with Bill Evans, who joins him for a banjo duet on the album.

There are a couple of gospel songs — “The Rope” and “Last Night I Was There”; a couple of hurting songs — “Today I Turned Your Picture To The Wall” and “Love Gone Cold”; a love song — Dolly Parton’s “You’re The Highlight Of My Life”; and a traditional song, “Little Pink.”

Good album by a bluegrass legend who just keeps getting better.

Look for it in stores Jan. 31 or try

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2 Comments on “BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “The Touch of Time,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.”

  1. There’s a typo about halfway down the review that starts with “In 2007, Waldron formed Sweetdixie…”. Obviously it should be “Emerson formed Sweetdixie…”
    Geoff Stelling

  2. Jim Moulton Says:

    I found this a unique recording with an old fashioned touch of bluegrass with folk leanings. Not your average today’s Bluegrass release, with the very finished , produced sound, Rural Rhythm is drawing some very good clientele, but this form of bluegrass doesn’t seem to have the audience that it once did, As long as you consider The Avett Brothers Bluegrass?? A bit sad, but it is good to know that this music is still available.

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