Kentucky Colonels

Kentucky Colonels

Clarence White is best known as the B-bendin’ Telecaster pioneer with the Byrds – and his tragic 1973 death. But he’s also admired for his groundbreaking flatpicking with the Kentucky Colonels. This set, now with bonus tracks, recalls a brief 1966-’67 reunion before Clarence joined the Byrds.

Despite the album’s title, the studio tracks were actually recorded in early ’67 and contain strong vocals along with nimble blasts of mandolin, banjo, guitar, fiddle, Dobro, and bass.

Skip ahead and cue up “Take Off Your Cheaters” to hear the Colonels just burn on their instruments, notably Roland White’s hot mando and Bob Warford’s banjo. The track is only 50 seconds long but almost steals the show. For flatpicking finesse, the two parts of “Soldier’s Joy” are a romp with Clarence’s sweet Martin flat-top out front. “Cotton Eyed Joe” is another 100-mph thriller, mixing vocal harmonies and blazing solos.

Known earlier as The Country Boys, the ensemble’s bonus material comes from 1959-’61 radio broadcasts (hence, somewhat lower audio fidelity) with a teenaged Clarence White providing brief-but-muscular licks and backbone rhythm. You can grab this spirited bluegrass set on CD, digital, or good ol’ vinyl.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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