top of page

The Best in Bluegrass Pay Tribute to Guitar Great

Dan Tyminski's tribute E.P. to Tony Rice was a process of self-healing

There is no better tribute to a lost recording artist than in song, especially when that tribute emulates all that the legend left behind.

And Dan Tyminski’s musical eulogy to acoustic-guitar genius Tony Rice – an E.P. titled One More Time Before You Go – seeks to do that, but without replication. Instead he recruits talented devotees of Rice to deliver songs which demonstrate what the man known as the Jimi Hendrix of the acoustic guitar actually taught them.

Rice died on Christmas Day in 2020 at the age of 69. He found fame by perfecting flatpicking, a technique involving striking a guitar’s string with a pick instead of the fingers. And his acoustic guitar – a well-worn Martin D-28 – became as famous as its owner.

Tyminski, a long-standing member of the Alison Krauss band Union Station, was influenced by Rice from the very first time he heard him play and the pair would become close when Rice joined Krauss on tour in 2007

“His whole career fascinated me, mostly in the right hand, and how he went after his solos and his rhythm playing,” Tyminski told The Bluegrass Situation. “Outside of his solos, I can tune into his rhythm playing and not even have to wait on a solo. I’m satisfied with just his rhythm. He was a monster.”

Tyminski chooses four songs popular in Rice’s huge repertoire over the years. But the fifth – the title track – is a composition he co-wrote with ex-Rice bandmember Josh Williams as a means of coping with the star guitarist’s sudden passing.

“I wrote the song truly as a way to self-heal. I was in mourning and I called someone else who I knew was in mourning as well – Josh Williams,” Tyminski said. “At the time I wrote the song, I didn’t really have this EP in mind. This song was kind of the birth of wanting to get enough material to make it sensible to put that song out.”

On “One More Time Before You Go”, Tyminski and mandolinist Williams are joined by Rice contemporaries Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Todd Phillips who all espoused the “newgrass” movement which evolved when the likes of Rice broke free of traditional bluegrass arrangements. And “newgrass” is no better defined than on this richly-acoustic title track.

No tribute to Rice would be complete without “Church Street Blues,” the title track to the 1983 album considered by many to be Rice’s finest solo work. And here Tyminski turns to one of the new generation of bluegrass stars. And there is no star more currently shining than Molly Tuttle. The pair simply nail the Norman Blake classic, with Tuttle adding beautiful harmony vocals to her signature guitar work.

Billy Strings - the other big “new name” in bluegrass music – joins Tyminski on the gospel standard “Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies” which Rice and Ricky Skaggs recorded a truly-memorable version for their outstanding 1980 joint-release Skaggs And Rice. Of the five songs, this is the closest Tyminski gets to actually replicating Rice as he and Strings take a congregational church-pew approach to the harmonies - like Skaggs and Rice did so all those years go.

Rice long admired the work of Gordon Lightfoot. His 1975 album – as a member of J.D. Crowe & The New South – has a smattering of songs by the Canadian troubadour and then in 1996 he released the must-listen compilation album Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot. Tyminski rightfully selects Lightfoot’s finest ballad “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder,” about a down-on-his-luck musician - fittingly a Martin guitar-player - hitch-hiking home to see his dying mother in Milwaukee. Contemporary bluegrass outfit Dailey & Vincent provide backing on this appealing track.

Like any tribute album, Tyminski’s eulogy not only revisits the past – in this case the wonderful emergence of “newgrass” – but points to the future, with the embrace of new hot-shots like Tuttle and Strings.

“There are a bunch of young people out there who are not just carrying the torch, they’re stoking the fire and making it bigger,” Tyminski told BGS. “Tony’s a big part of what has made these young people want to do that.”

Paul Cutler

Editor Crossroads – Americana Music Appreciation


bottom of page