ILYA TOSHINSKIY, “Red Grass,” Hadley Music Group, 10 tracks


In the late 1980s, a number of young Russian musicians began turning to bluegrass music as a form of rebellion during the upheaval that would eventually cause the Soviet Union to collapse.

Ilya Toshinskiy was studying classical music at the State College of Music and Stage Arts near Moscow when he formed the bluegrass band Bering Strait with some like-minded musicians and came to America to develop their talents.

He had discovered the banjo while studying classical guitar as a preteen.

But American banjos weren’t available.

And Toshinskiy had to make picks from plastic rulers and tin cans.

But he persisted

Toshinskiy was 14 when he first visited Nashville in 1992 during an event sponsored by the Tennessee Banjo Institute.

And today, he is one of the top session players in Music City, performing on albums by Blake Shelton, Marie Osmond, Toby Keith and Tim McGraw among others.

Although Toshinskiy is best known for his guitar work these days, the banjo is his first love.

And “Red Grass,” his latest album, features 10 of his original compositions for the banjo.

Toshinskiy is joined some of Nashville’s top musicians — Bryan Sutton, Andy Leftwich, Jerry Douglas, Byron House, Luke Bulla, Jake Stargel and Aubrey Haynie — on the album.

But “Swan Song,” the final number on the album, is just Toshinskiy and his banjo.

The way it began.

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