Sugar Hill Favorites

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Your Favorite Sugar Hill Record<br />
<em>Musicians, Radio Hosts, and Fans Reveal the Best of the Venerable Acoustic Label </em>
<em> “Just one? How do I pick just one?” Like choosing your favorite child, it seems that choosing your favorite Sugar Hill disc is a near impossible task, as this was a common refrain found in the responses to this piece. But pick they did, and the choices herein – given by musicians, radio personalities, and acoustic music fans – represent just a taste of the greatness of the Sugar Hill catalog. – Dave Stallard</em>
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Drew Logsdon – Music Fan/Danville, KY
“Tony Rice’s Church Street Blues served as my gateway to progressive acoustic music. Not only did it open my eyes to Tony’s incredible guitar playing, but it introduced me to phenomenal songwriters like Norman Blake, Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. A quintessential album if there ever was one.”
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Larry Gorley – WOPI Radio Host/Bristol, TN
“How do you pick just one disc? For me, I guess the one recording that still gets me up and moving is the Lonesome River Band’s Old Country Town. From start to finish it has great song selection, just awesome songs, and the music has the thrust of a mighty engine rolling down the tracks delivered by a stellar cast of musicians.”
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Dennis Jones – WNCW’s host of Goin’ Across the Mountain & The Gospel Truth/Spindale, NC
“With such a back catalog of important releases, it’s almost impossible to point to one Sugar Hill recording. One Way Track by Boone Creek, the first of the Barry Poss’s vision still stands up as strong today as it did in 1978. This new, fresh, young group of Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Terry Baucom, Wes Golding and Steve Bryant helped bring Bluegrass music to a worldwide audience and secured the company a place in the Independent Record Label Hall of Fame. And then you would have to look at the association of Sugar Hill and Doc Watson. This one artist defines Americana Music and Sugar Hill to me. Much like the label it’s self, Doc’s sense of Tradition and Roots combined with adventurous musical taste, brings about that rare ability to blend genres. Doc’s On Praying Ground is an all time classic recording. The genuine and deeply heartfelt delivery, matched with the incredible lineup of musicians, makes it a must have for any music collection. I would like to add my congratulations and happy 30th to Barry and Sugar Hill….keep making the hits.”
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Sam Bush – Mandolin Icon
“Tim and Mollie O’Brien’s Take Me Back. The beauty of their voices together is astounding. They prove the ability to take old time material and make it fresh and new.”
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John Lawless – The Bluegrass Blog, Roanoke, VA
“Wow… It’s tough to pick just one, what with all the classic early Quicksilver, Hot Rize, Lonesome River Band, Chris Thile, New Grass Revival and so many others. With only one to choose, my pick would have to be Skaggs & Rice, the duet album from Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice. When this project was first released on vinyl in 1980, both men were “rising stars,” and on the very top of their game. Their voices blend so perfectly together and, especially reflecting on Tony’s inability to sing these days, this album stands out as a testament to what a great contribution he and Ricky have made to our music.”
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Mike Kelly – WDVX Radio Host, Knoxville, TN
“I’d go with Kenny Smith’s 1997 Studebaker release. Flawless guitar playing. Great tunes. It also gave the bluegrass world their first taste of what would later become the Kenny and Amanda Smith Band. Amanda provided some strong vocals on this project. The disc also includes Sammy Shelor, Ronnie Bowman, Don Rigsby, Adam Steffey, and Barry Bales. Not a bad line up for a debut solo project. I never get tired of listening to this album.”
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Travis Book – The Infamous Stringdusters
“Tony Rice’s Church Street Blues is, without a doubt, the greatest record of all time. I can’t even really explain what it did to me the first time I heard it. I don’t think anyone knew that one person could sing and play guitar like that. Tony is the absolute best and this record is him at his best. I must have learned every song off that record, but I couldn’t begin to make them sound like tony. No other record has had as much impact on me as a person and a musician as Church Street Blues.”
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Jan Smith – Songwriter, Charlottesville, VA
“My favorite Sugar Hill release, and one of my favorite all-time records, is Skaggs & Rice, the duet project of Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice. I love how stripped down it is. It’s just two voices and two instruments. It proves what a full and listenable sound can be produced by two people when they’re master players with rich, authentic singing voices. Also, their harmonies are so tight, which is a refreshing change from some of the alternative-roots acts you hear today. The songs themselves are so vital and essential, even though I’m assuming they’re all very old. My husband says that singing along with this album is a great way to learn how to sing parts in bluegrass music. Listen to “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies” for a master class in duo vocals. This is rich, rich music.”
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Tim Stafford – Blue Highway
“I have to say my favorite Sugar Hill release may have been their very first one, at least for bluegrass, Boone Creek’s One Way Track. That record, and that band, along with the J.D. Crowe band and album from ’75 on Rounder, has been one of the most influential for modern bluegrass. Ricky Skaggs really let his hair down and showed us what he had been doing live with his pyro-tenor voice for the last few years with this band. Recorded after the band had officially broken up, the project’s classic takes on standards like “Can’t You Hear Me Calling,” “Head Over Heels,” “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome,” “Daniel Prayed,” and “Walking in Jerusalem” sit naturally beside stunning originals like the title track and “Mississippi Queen.” This was also the first record, to my ears, that showcased how Jerry Douglas was re-inventing the dobro. The impact of his breaks here is similar, I’m sure, to what listeners experienced when they first heard Josh Graves with Flatt and Scruggs in the early 1950s. This band brought an excitement to bluegrass that has rarely, if ever, been surpassed, and still continues to inspire those who play it for a living today. That spirit was never captured better than One Way Track.”
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Jeff Green – Music Fan, Nashville, TN
“My pick would be Chris Thile’s Not All Who Wander Are Lost. As the title of this album implies, departure from what is known as traditional does not always indicate confusion in identity. Though bluegrass inspired, this is Thile’s own music and interpretation that is backed by an outstanding musical cast. His exceptional ability to compose, arrange and pick pushes through on every track. In retrospect, this album can serve as a transition between two different sides of Thile; one who is a technical mandolin virtuoso and band mate (i.e., Nickel Creek), and one who is a more complete musician and band leader (i.e., Punch Brothers). Chris Thile is a testament to the influence of bluegrass as a music form and its many possibilities in the hands of a progressive musician.”
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Jesse Cobb – The Infamous Stringdusters
“There are so many amazing Sugar Hill artists spanning decades of great music, that it’s really hard to pick a favorite. Nickel Creek, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and New Grass Revival are some of my favorites. That being said, in recent memory, Tim O’Brien’s Fiddler’s Green has to be my favorite. A more heartfelt and honest album I’ve not heard! I still listen to it almost daily. I love the song selection, musicians used on the sessions and, of course, Tim has one of the best voices ever.”

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