"20th Anniversary Concert – Live at the Down Home" by Lou Reid & Carolina

Lou Reid & Carolina
20th Anniversary Concert – Live at the Down Home
KMA Records
4½ stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

I’ve heard several versions of “Long Black Veil” through the years and performed it myself several times, but I’ve never heard a version I like better than Lou Reid’s. I’ve always held to the theory that the composed music (whether it ever found its way to sheet music or not) is a guideline, not a rule, and you need to make a song your own. Reid puts his mark on this one and it’s going onto my iPhone and my iPad.

Recorded live, you’ll hear a glitch or two along the way. At 23 seconds in “Long Black Veil” the band gets lost on a chord change and on “Grass Lover,” the top of the set, you can barely hear Kevin Richardson’s guitar. It’s hard to fix too soft when you’re mixing the recording session but you can hear the rather heavy bass being cut back so you can hear the guitar. But, these are minor quibbles and they don’t take away from the overall enjoyment.

Reid sings bluegrass the way it should be sung. You won’t be searching for some catchy description—newgrass, sawgrass, country-grass, progressive—of his sound. The musicians are all top-notch, too. Reid’s wife Christy plays bass and sings. She sings lead on one song (Reid points out she’s the one who makes the set lists), “She’s More To Be Pitied,” a Stanley Brothers song that’s been covered many times. Trevor Watson plays banjo and Reid plays mandolin. The four bandmembers all sing and they are joined here by Justin Moses (fiddle and Dobro). They show off their harmonies on several songs but especially on an a cappella version of “Lord Have Mercy (On My Soul).”

Reid can sing a ballad. He had a #1 hit in 2005 with a song written by John Cadley (The Lost Boys), “Time.” The first two lines of each of the three verses really hit home once you sport some gray on top.

When I was young I dreamed of being older

Now that I’m older I dream of being young

When I was young I dreamed of how I’d spend my life

Now that I’m older I spend my life in dreams

When I was young the road went on forever

Now that I’m older I see it isn’t so

Boy, I wish I’d written that. Just as good, a song about broken love, is “I Couldn’t Find My Walking Shoes.” My iToys are going to be filling up.

And he can carry a barnburner, too. “When It Rains” and “Carolina Moonshine Man” both set the strings on fire, while “Lost In A Memory” has a very bluesy touch.

If you love good bluegrass, get this one on your Christmas wish list or just log onto their website and buy it. This is true blue bluegrass.