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Tony Rice: Bluegrass and Beyond

I first heard of Tony Rice when I did a post on the great John Hartford. Rice was part of a group of wonderful musicians playing one of Hartford’s signature songs, “Steam Powered Aeroplane.” It’s tremendous. Please check it out. The link is at the top of the list in the box to the right.

Rice was born in Danville, VA in 1951. Wikipedia points out at the beginning of its profile that he is more than a bluegrass player. Indeed, it calls him an influential player in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, “newgrass” and acoustic jazz.

It’s likely difficult to pick up the nuances between all of those categories except for the last one. Suffice it to say that Rice clearly is an important player. He was, according to the bio, induced into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

He has played with the big guns as well:

Over the course of his career, he has played alongside J. D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman (during the formation of “Dawg Music”) and Jerry Garcia, led his own Tony Rice Unit, collaborated with Norman Blake, recorded with his brothers Wyatt, Ron and Larry and co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band. He has recorded with drums, piano, soprano sax, as well as with traditional bluegrass instrumentation.[5][6]

Though born in Virginia, Rice grew up in Los Angeles. His love of bluegrass was a family affair: He was introduced to the style by his dad and played with his three brothers. During this time, he crossed paths with other enthusiasts including Ry Cooder, according to the piece. In 1970, he moved to Louisville and hooked on with JD. Crowe’s New South. He began playing with David Grisman and eventually became a solo act.

Craig Harris’ profile at AllMusic pretty much stays to the chronology of Rice’s career. What is apparent is just how wide-ranging he is: He and bands that he played with performed works by the expected folks. However, names such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Gordon Lightfoot also appear. It seems that bluegrass players are particularly open to moving beyond the traditional. Vassar Clemens and David Grisman come to mind.

Above is “Blue Railroad Train” and below is “Nine Pound Hammer.”

Wikipedia and AllMusic were used to write this post. Homepage photo: Jordan Klein