BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “The Gospel Side of Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks

What can you say about a man like Bill Emerson that hasn’t been said?

Emerson, who will be 78 in January,  is one of the most influential banjo players this side of Earl Scruggs.

His 60-year career in bluegrass 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.

Since his retirement from the Navy, Emerson has led Sweet Dixie.

“The Gospel Side” is his fifth album for Rural Rhythm.

Nine of the tracks — songs like “He Knows My Name,” “Keep On The Sunny Side of Life” and “Little Stone Lambs” — were taken from previous albums.

Three — “What A Day,” “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room” and “Drifting Too Far From The Shore” — were recorded for this album.

Vocals are provided by Tom Adams, Teri Chism, Wayne Lanham, Chris Stifel, Wayne Taylor, Randy Waller, Linda Lay and Lauren Mears.

Another good album by a master musician.

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

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com 

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