When people come to the eternal question of who is the greatest bluegrass band ever, most would automatically come up with the answer Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Flatt and Scruggs, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, or Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys. And all of those of course would be credible answers, but when I think of the greatest band ever, and when I think of what it takes to be the greatest bluegrass band ever, I think that there will never be a band as talented as The Bluegrass Album Band.
The funny thing about this band is that it was never supposed to be a band in the first place. The main idea was a project that featured Tony Rice and J.D. Crowe that would also include Doyle Lawson, Bobby Hicks, and Todd Phillips. This band’s first 2 albums,needless to say, were so incredible that they made a band and made more albums which featured other incredible artists such as Jerry Douglas, Vassar Clements, and Mark Schatz. Even though they weren’t designed to be a live band, they played live shows when it was possible and they were all at the same place with their other acts.
When you look at this band’s lineup and compare it to other bands, their lineup out matches any other band, even when The Bluegrass Boys had Flatt and Scruggs. When we think of the top tier of musicians for each instrument every member of the band has to be mentioned, and that is what makes them so great. Along with being the best instrumental group, there is no sweeter sounding three part harmony then Rice, Crowe and Lawson. Even though all of the songs were done by the 1st generation of bluegrass, I don’t think that diminishes their own talent because bands are still playing those songs, and people are still enjoying them today.
The band members are also considered to be some of the main bluegrass players in the third generation of bluegrass music. While the 1st generation included the big four, and the second added the talents of groups like Jim and Jesse and The Osborne Brothers, the third could be considered the biggest jump. This era turned out to be more group oriented like Hot Rize and The Johnson Mountain Boys, which are two other fantastic bands. This different Formula for a bluegrass band instead of the traditional bands who had a featured artist and then a backup band. Even though you could make the case that the band was backing up Tony Rice, but I would disagree, because there are songs without guitar breaks.
The most important thing for a band to be is tight, and The Bluegrass Album Band understood that. If you just listen to the background and the fills, there is never once that you can’t hear the lick because somebody else is playing too loud or playing a lick at that time and canceling themselves out, and when Tony or others are about to sing all you hear is the rhythm and the tasteful licks from J.D. Crowe.
But of course, my number one reason for announcing this band is my favorite is because of the guitar player in the history of forever, Tony Rice. If there was one person I could listen to play guitar on a desert Island I would look over Hendrix, Clapton, Page, White, Reinhardt and instead listen to the one person that has influenced my ideas and opinions in music, Tony Rice. Even though there have been great bands before and after The Bluegrass Band, there will never be another band like them.