Don Reno & Bill Harrell & The Tennessee Cut-Ups - The Don Reno Story - MP3
This 1976 recording captures a timeless and inventive bluegrass artist earnestly revisiting many of his greatest works from across his career. Mass audiences may be familiar with Don Reno’s iconic playing via his and Arthur Smith’s surprise hit “Feudin’ Banjos” (made famous as “Dueling Banjos” in the 1972 film Deliverance), but the musician’s history and work goes much deeper than that.
Born in Spartanburg, North Carolina in 1926 and raised on a farm, Don Reno began playing guitar when he was only five years old and picked up a banjo shortly after. After serving in the military as a sixteen-year-old in the midst of World War II, Reno returned home and quickly made a name for himself in the world of bluegrass.
With his group The Tennessee Cut-Ups, he made his first recordings in Cincinnati in 1952. It wasn’t long before he became known as an innovator of bluegrass banjo and guitar techniques, recognized for developing his own two-finger “single string” approach to the banjo and likewise considered a foundational adopter of flatpicking guitar technique within bluegrass. Beyond that, Reno was a masterful songwriter and vocalist and he had the records and credentials to prove it with over 25 full-length albums and over 60 singles dating back to 1952.
All these skills are on display on this excellent double-LP, recorded specifically for CMH records in 1976 with The Tennessee Cut-Ups and guitarist/vocalist Bill Harrell, collaborator since 1966. On this album, Reno, Harrell and their band adeptly revisit many classics from throughout the bandleader’s career, including many of his earliest works like “The Lord’s Last Supper,” “Long Gone,” “I’m Using My Bible for a Roadmap,” and “I’m the Talk of the Town.”
Chipper instrumentals “Little Rock Getaway” and “Dixie Breakdown” showcase the band’s excellent soloists trading off over an upbeat bedrock rhythm section. Others like “The Lord’s Last Supper,” “I’m Using My Bible for a Roadmap” and “He’s Coming Back to Earth Again” represent Reno’s unique talent writing on spiritual and religious themes while connecting directly to the heart. These songs are captured in the highest fidelity a studio of the time would have to offer, providing a clear, warm and authentic late-career snapshot of these incredible artists and instrumentalists.