On Christmas morning, as families around the country woke and gathered to open presents, the music world lost an icon.
Tony Rice, master guitarist and bluegrass legend, died suddenly in his kitchen, while preparing his morning coffee, on December 25th, 2020.
Like the loss of John Prine earlier this year, this one rattled me. Tony Rice has long been one of my musical heroes. He exists in the rare air, a true genius and master of his instrument, a man who, when he picked up a guitar before the age of ten, forged a destiny wherein he would redefine a genre and influence players for generations to come.
The first time I saw Tony Rice perform live was at the Starr Hill Music Hall in Charlottesville, where he played a duo gig with long time friend Peter Rowan. At one point, Rowan left the stage, leaving Tony alone with his guitar. No setting for any other human being is more complete in its simplicity. Tony launched into a solo version of “Shenandoah” and the standing room only crowd fell to a hush. It was quiet enough that we could hear each other breathing. The congregants were captivated. The moment was truly magical.
I have been listening to Tony’s music for more than two decades. Rarely have I heard anything as pure as the notes he played. With him on my mind, I compiled a Trail Mix playlist for January that pays tribute to his music. These twenty songs are by no means a greatest hits or an exhauastive commentary on his catalog. Instead, they reflect his great dexterity, his ability to cross genres with no difficulty, the true genius of his musicianship, and his collaborations with the many kindred spirits with whom he made so many people happy. I hope you enjoy it.
Long time followers of Trail Mix will notice a big change this month. We have made the switch to Spotify for our monthly mixes. This is a big change that will afford us new opportunities with the selection of songs we can offer. It is also significant, though, in that the download option will no longer be offered. Despite that change, we hope you guys stick with us, as we promise to bring to you great music from artists around the country – and the world – each and every month.