This entertaining disc from fiddle legend Vassar Clements, “Livin’ With The Blues,” was his first solo release on David Grisman’s Acoustic Disc label, and unfortunately was his last. He died last August from complications of lung cancer; he’ll be sorely missed. He first gained notoriety as a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, and over the course of his storied career, he played with all the biggest names in bluegrass and country music. A much sought after studio musician, his work can be heard on albums from artists as diverse as Paul McCartney and the Grateful Dead.
The album is an often acoustic, sometimes electric mix of traditional and original blues, and is pretty evenly split between vocals and instrumentals. Clements is partnered throughout with some top-flight players and vocalists, and the results are simply stunning, whether playing in a large combo or a simple duet. There are many highlights here; I particularly liked Elvin Bishop’s bluesy ditty “Dirty Drawers” – Elvin’s just a good-old-boy, but he sure can play, and his vocals are always delivered with a healthy helpling of humor. Roy Rogers provides some superb guitar and vocals in the duo with Clements “Phonograph Blues;” Maria Muldaur really belts it with spicy vocals on a couple of numbers, and there’s even a really bluesy reworking of Booker T and the MG’s classic “Green Onions.”
Sound quality is first class, which is always par for the course for Acoustic Disc. This disc will serve as Vassar Clement’s eulogy, and highlights just how broad his stature was as a performer and musician. Not to be missed – this disc is very highly recommended.
Tracks: Cypress Grove; Dirty Drawers; Honey Babe Blues; Mambo Boogie; Phonograph Blues; Green Onions; Rube’s Blues; Dead Cats on the Line; That’s My Thing; Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning; I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle; Mama I’m All Out and Down; Fiddlin’ & Faddlin’; Cool Drink of Water; Don’t Stand Behind a Mule.
— Tom Gibbs