Bobby Osborne is one of bluegrass music’s true innovators. His trailblazing work with The Osborne Brothers, who charted 13 Billboard Country top 100 hits in the 1960s and 70s, took the sounds of the banjo, mandolin and Bobby’s one of a kind tenor voice to a mainstream audience. Blurring the boundaries between bluegrass and country music with the addition of electric bass, drums and cutting edge instrumental performances, the Osborne Brothers are, in a sense, the connective tissue between the first generation creators of bluegrass music and newgrass which has in turn paved the way for the diversity and innovation that characterizes contemporary bluegrass.
Even at 85 years old, when Bobby Osborne could be resting on his many laurels, he is still driven by a desire to push the musical envelope.
Producer/banjoist/Compass co-founder Alison Brown discovered this when she was subbing for JD Crowe on a Masters of Bluegrass show several years ago and recognized a kindred spirit in Bobby. Subsequently, while working with him in the studio on Peter Rowan’s album, The Old School, Bobby happened to comment that he doubted he’d have the chance to make another solo album. It was clear that Bobby still had something important to say musically so Alison connected Bobby with a grant from the FreshGrass Foundation grant and embarked on the sessions for this project.
The new album features an all star cast of pickers and singers collaborating with Bobby on an eclectic set of songs. Relative newcomers Sierra Hull and Trey Hensley team up with stalwarts Stuart Duncan and Todd Phillips on grass’d up versions of Paint Your Wagon’s “They Call The Wind Maria” and the Bee Gees’ “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You.” The never before recorded Darrell Scott song “Kentucky Morning,” featuring Rob Ickes, gives a nod to Bobby’s heritage while the cover of “Make the World Go Away” with the lush twin fiddles of Buddy Spicher and Matt Combs evokes Music Row circa 1962. Bobby’s touring band the Rocky Top X-Press, with sons Wynn, Robby and Bobby Osborne Jr., deliver an updated version of the Osborne Brothers’ classic “Pathway of Teardrops” while Ronnie and Robbie McCoury, together with Josh Williams and Missy Raines, collaborate on a version of the obscure Mel Tillis song “Goodbye Wheeling.” Additional performers include Sam Bush, Vince Gill, Jim Lauderdale, Del McCoury, Darrell Scott, David Mayfield, Molly Tuttle, Bryan McDowell, and Kenny Malone.
About the new music Bobby has this to say: “We [The Osborne Brothers] didn’t want to sound like nobody else. And that’s the way I want to be on this CD, too.”