June 22, 1999
Warner Bros.
Country, Fusion, Bluegrass, Progressive Bluegrass

Album Review

As it turns out, the Tales From the Acoustic Planet albums are where Béla Fleck sounds the most comfortable in the '90s. As his jazz fusion records begin to sound played out, his acoustic experimentation and returns to straight-ahead bluegrass sound lively, vibrant, and fresh. As a matter of fact, The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales From the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 2 feels like one of his finest albums, due in no small part to the caliber of supporting musicians. The core band consists of Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Tony Rice, and Mark Schatz, while Vassar Clements, John Hartford, and Earl Scruggs all guest; it's a veritable who's-who of bluegrass. Fleck's idea was to record everything from the purest bluegrass to modern newgrass, giving his talented musicians the opportunity to explore every facet of their musical personality. Much of the album is devoted to Fleck originals, complimented by a handful of covers, none of which are predictable. The same can be said for the music: Even seasoned newgrass listeners will probably be surprised by some of the twists and turns here, while the sheer commitment and astonishing musicianship will win over traditionalists. But the true key to The Bluegrass Sessions is that even when it gets technical, it feels heartfelt, and the textures keep changing from song to song, enough to keep it interesting, even captivating, throughout 18 songs and 70 minutes. It had been easy to take Fleck for granted, but this record is a welcome reminder of what a talented and unique musician he is.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Blue Mountain Hop
  2. Buffalo Nickel
  3. When Joy Kills Sorrow
  4. Spanish Point
  5. Polka on the Banjo
  6. Clarinet Polka
  7. The Over Grown Waltz
  8. Ode to Earl
  9. Home Sweet Home
  10. Valley of the Rogue
  11. Plunky's Lament
  12. Maura on a Bicycle, Stout and Molasses, Way Back When
  13. Dark Circles
  14. Old Jellico, Puddle Jumper, Dead Man's Hill
  15. Katmandu
  16. Do You Have Room?
  17. Foggy Mountain Special
  18. Major Honker