Sunday, July 8, 2012

Elvis Covers Part I: Viva Las Vegas

The Grascals: Viva Las Vegas


After a couple listens to The Grascals’ debut CD back in 2005, I was convinced that the album would be among my top ten favorites for that year. Besides offering great music, I heard a cohesive and collaborative band built around six talented friends who shared common goals. At that time, you couldn’t find much better musicians with both expert bluegrass and country sensibilities than The Grascals’ Terry Eldredge (lead vocals, guitar), Jimmy Mattingly (fiddle), David Talbot (banjo, vocals), Jamie Johnson (guitar, vocals), Danny Roberts (mandolin) and Terry Smith (bass). Dolly Parton invited The Grascals to open all concerts on her Hello, I'm Dolly tour in the fall of 2004, as well as to join other musicians backing up Dolly each evening.

Well, it wasn’t long before many folks were noticing the band. The Grascals won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Emerging Artist Award in 2005. Then, they went on to win the IBMA’s Entertainer of the Year Awards for both 2006 and 2007! Others agree that the entertaining group is made up of discriminating, well-rounded and resourceful performers with plenty of showmanship. You may not be that into bluegrass or country, but you’ll find The Grascals to be enjoyable. Since 2005, Mattingly and Talbot have left the band, and their replacements are every bit as good if not better -- fiddler Jeremy Abshire and banjo-player Kristin Scott Benson.

Whether playing traditional or contemporary material, The Grascals simply have good taste when it comes to arrangements and musicianship. Their eclectic material appeals to many tastes. And these high rollers aren't afraid to gamble a little or take a few risks. “Viva Las Vegas” closed their debut album and included special guest vocalist Dolly Parton and some of Bob Mater’s drumming. While I’ve never caught them live in concert, I understand that guitarist Jamie Johnson even does Elvis Presley impersonations. Like the song “Viva Las Vegas” states, I think they “shoot a seven with every shot.”

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