Album Review of
From the Ground Up

Label: Pinecastle

Genres: Bluegrass, Folk

Styles: Contemporary Bluegrass, Folk, Bluegrass

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Written by Joe Ross
July 23, 2022 - 11:01am EDT
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Peaking at #23 on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 Bluegrass Album Chart, From the Ground Up is a very welcome new release from two-time IBMA “Guitar Player of the Year” Jim Hurst who teams up with a stellar lineup of musicians to present a variety of bluegrass, with folksy leanings, from Hurst’s own pen and others. A Delmore brothers song, “15 Miles to Birmingham” is sung in the leanest duo arrangement with just guitar along with Don Rigsby’s mandolin and tenor harmony. With its bluesy groove, “Train of Trouble” is presented in a trio arrangement featuring guitar, bass and mandolin.   

Hurst’s relaxed, affable baritone conveys plenty of charisma and imagery in songs that tell a story such as “Sunnyside Garden,” “Weary Old Highway,” “A Stone’s Throw Away” and “Nothin’ To Do But Pray” that feature Darin and Brooke Aldridge as backup vocalists who stack a couple harmonies above Hurst’s lead. Other tracks feature vocal harmonies of Shawn Lane, Dale Ann Bradley, Larry Hurst or Johnny and Jeannette Williams. Liner notes don’t credit the backup vocalists on the rollicking closing cover of the Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me.”              

Earlier in his career, Jim Hurst has worked and toured with Red River (with Tim Ellis), Old Hickory (with Vic Jordan and Gene Wooten), Holly Dunn, Trisha Yearwood, Claire Lynch and the Front Porch String Band, in a duo with Missy Raines, John Cowan Band, Claire Lynch Band, David Grisman Folk-Jazz Trio, and in a duo with Rob Ickes. Since about 1997, Jim Hurst has also released several solo albums under his own name.  Hurst's first solo release "Open Window" appeared about 1998. Back in 2000, I found Hurst and Raines duo album called “Two” to be a highly interactive collaboration resulting in a synergy much more than each individual part ever would have been by itself, with its tasteful, yet playful, interplay of two excellent award-winning musicians.  Around 2006, Hurst's "Second Son" album brought together 27 other musicians, a veritable who's who of bluegrass, to span a broad spectrum from trad country to bluegrass.

Hurst is a hard-working, eclectic and expressive musician who has another bell-ringing winner with "From the Ground Up.” Now based in Nashville, Hurst enlists an all-star group of musical friends to flex his band leader chops, showcase his songwriting, lead vocals and guitar licks. There's no shortage of exceptional musicianship, instrumental flurries and soaring vocal harmonies from him and his friends. He’s come a long way since he first stood on a chair, at age seven, to play bass in a jam with Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)