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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 01/11/2011

Album review: "The Grascals & Friends: Country Classics With a Bluegrass Spin"

By Allison Stewart

grascalsThe Grascals get help from Dolly Parton and Brad Paisley. (Courtesy of the band)

The Grascals & Friends' "Country Classics With a Bluegrass Spin" offers pretty much what it advertises: a passel of famous country songs gently re-imagined, and occasionally pretzeled into submission, by the perennially underestimated Nashville bluegrass band the Grascals and a troupe of guest stars including Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton.

"Country Classics" is, for now at least, available only at Cracker Barrel restaurants through its powerhouse Cracker Barrel Music program, which has previously reinvigorated the careers of middle-of-the-pack country acts such as Montgomery Gentry and Mandy Barnett. In keeping with most of the program's releases, "Country Classics" resembles a careful, affable, family-friendly compilation album more than it does a cohesive work of art.

It's expertly collated and predictably guest star-centric: Parton adds a butterfly-weight harmony to a cover of her own "Pain of Lovin' You" (the Grascals were once her backing band, and Parton presides over several tracks like a proud mama); Paisley assists on the opening cover of Buck Owens's "Tiger by the Tail."

Elsewhere, Charlie Daniels shows up for a subdued version of his "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" that lacks even the low-key chills of the original, and Joe Nichols guests on a cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," the only song here that wears its new bluegrass trappings like an awkward suit of clothes.

Recommended tracks: "Tiger by the Tail," "Pain of Lovin' You"

By Allison Stewart  | January 11, 2011; 11:35 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags:  The Grascals  
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