Tony Rice’s death on Christmas 2020, following years of ill health, was certain to inspire tribute efforts. Guitarist-banjoist Barry Waldrep, producer of nearly two dozen bluegrass homages to artists ranging from Phish to Neil Diamond and REM, has delivered the first. Waldrep, who plays acoustic guitar on most tracks, recruited a diverse swath of non-bluegrassers – encompassing folk, rock, Americana and mainstream country – to record 21 songs spanning Rice’s career.
Warren Haynes adds vocals and primitive resonator slide guitar to the ancient “Wayfaring Stranger.” Vince Gill handles vocals and mandolin on the driving “I’ll Stay Around.” Waldrep plays a graceful intro and a relaxed break on “Song for the Life,” sung by Rodney Crowell. His flatpicking expertly frames Marty Raybon’s vocal on “Blue Railroad Train.” Darrell Scott adds rhythm guitar to his lead vocal on “10 Degrees and Getting Colder.”
For a rocked-up version of James Taylor’s “Me and My Guitar,” Benji Shanks’ electric slide guitar complements John Cowan’s vocal. Waldrep handles mandolin on the famed David Grisman Quintet instrumental “Emd,” the explosive guitar breaks coming from John Jorgenson. The Doobie Brothers’ Patrick Simmons handles vocals and fingerstyle picking on “9 Pound Hammer.”
More Rice tributes are inevitable; few will summarize his legacy as this does.
This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.