Bill Emerson, who turned 76 in January, is one of the most influential banjo players this side of Earl Scruggs.
His career dates back 59 years to a stint with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.
Two years later, he 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.
A few years ago, Emerson created Sweet Dixie and hit the road again.
Only one Emerson original — “State Line Ride” — is featured on the new album, “Dancin’ Annie.” But there’s a strong collection of good songs on the album.
Chris Stifel, the band’s guitarist, wrote and sings lead on the title track about a city girl who was happy in the country until the bright lights called her back.
He also sings lead on “Days When You Were Mine,” a song about a man spending years regretting breaking up with the woman he loves.
Teri Chism, the bass player, sings lead on “The Only Wind That Blows,” a song about loneliness that says when he’s away “the night is just a dark place.”
She also sings lead on “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Patsy Cline‘s first major hit in 1957.
Wayne Lanham, the mandolin player, takes over lead vocals on the gospel ballad, “Will A Light Be Shining Bright.”
He also wrote, “Whistle Stop,” an uptempo instrumental on the album.
Another good album by one of the legends of bluegrass.
Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.amazon.com.