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Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album

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Joe Diffie, best known for ’90s hits such as “Pickup Man” and “John Deere Green,” is the latest in a long line of country artists to trade electric guitars and drums for banjos and mandolins on his first solo bluegrass offering. No stranger to the genre, Joe reprises the song “Tennessee Tea” from his days singing as part of the bluegrass group Special Edition. His plaintive voice is arresting on “Rainin’ on Her Rubber Dolly,” featuring The Grascals, while Rhonda Vincent adds superb harmonies on “Fit for a King.” “Route 5 Box 109” blends brisk banjo and fiddle work with colorful country lyrics concerning a homesick young man reminiscing over homemade biscuits, Glen Campbell songs and perennial bluegrass music sponsor Martha White. The closer, “Hard to Handle,” with its almost spoken-word verses and breakneck work from ace instrumentalists Charlie Cushman and Rob Ickes, should agree with fans of Charlie Daniels. The haunting murder ballad “’Til Death” chills with lines of a vengeful lover: I shot her through the heart / Remember what that preacher said, ’til death do us part. The album is textbook bluegrass.

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