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Johnny Gimble – Celebrating With Friends – CMH Records

Posted by on April 11, 2010 in Album Reviews - 2 Comments

Some music is simply meant to make you feel good. Western swing certainly does that, and Johnny Gimble, one of the genre’s fiddle and mandolin virtuosos, is still swingin’ at 84. Celebrating With Friends is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and set your boots to tappin’.

The consummate sideman, Texas-native Gimble is a nine-time Academy of Country Music Fiddler of the Year, two-time Grammy award winner, and an NEA Master Artist.

Gimble’s studio credits read like the roster of the Country Music Hall of Fame: Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, George Strait. Many of those friends return for this album.

A couple of old classics sing a couple of old classics — Merle Haggard on “Sweet Georgia Brown” and Willie Nelson doing “Lady Be Good.”

Ten of the 14 tracks are Gimble originals, and the album opens with a fascinating spoken recollection of his early days playing for Peacemeker Flour in North Texas on a flatbed truck. The man’s been around, even appearing as Bob Wills in the Clint Eastwood film Honkeytonk Man.

Asleep At The Wheel are a big presence, as Ray Benson produced the album and plays acoustic guitar, while Jason Roberts is featured throughout on fiddle and electric mandolin — he’s superb on the lilting Gimble original, “Gardenia Waltz.”

“Owed to Johnny Gimble” is an original Garrison Keillor song taken from a 1994 performance on A Prairie Home Companion. It’s a charming little ditty.

“Under the X in Texas” is another of many highlights, with Ray Benson taking vocals. “Mandelopin'” showcases Gimble’s mandolin and fiddle mastry, as well as some mighty fancy piano from Danny Levin.

On the penultimate cut, Gimble asks the rhetorical question, “What do you do when you just can’t do what you did when you did what you did?” Fortunately for us, Johnny Gimble can still do what he did when he does what he does.

These days he can be seen playing out occasionally with his granddaughter Emily at spots like Guero’s Taco Bar around Austin, TX.

About the author

Jim Simpson is a music critic and award-winning fiction writer. A native of the wilds of Florida's Gulf Coast, he now resides on the scruffy outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. His musical taste spans all genres: Bluegrass, Americana, Classic Country, Alt-Country, Western Swing, Blues, Classical, Rock 'n' Roll, Punk, Reggae, Klezmer, and British Isles Folk (to name but a few). He once sang Happy Birthday (with about 10,000 other people) to Joni Mitchell, and has seen such legends as Miles Davis, The Incredible Jimmy Smith, Rockpile, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, R.E.M., Blue Rodeo, King Sunny Ade, Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan live in concert. Jim is also managing editor for Awaiting the Flood, as well as a book and music reviewer for Hellbomb and Atlanta Music Guide. He occasionally contributes essays to the international writers collective TheNervousBreakdown.com, and has been at work on his first novel for longer than he originally planned. It should be in bookstores some time before his death.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted April 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

    It was Asleep at the Wheel that first introduced me to western swing around 1973. Through Ray & the Band I then discovered Bob Wills,Johnny Gimble etc. What a wonderful discovery that was ! For many years I have had a tribute song to Western Swing that mentions the Wheel & Bob Wills but I can’t stop writing new material for the Homeless People in this land. I keep running out of room on my cd’s but it will someday,somehow be recorded. I personally believe Ray Benson is underrated as guiter players go. I Love his playing.

  2. Posted July 15, 2010 at 3:22 am

    [...] hold the instrument wrong, hold the bow wrong. If you’re going to look at someone, look at Johnny Gimble or Mark O’Connor. But make your own [...]

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