In the era of modern music, describing any artist as the “greatest of all time” can often be met with resistance — if for no other reason than the ever-evolving tastes of both musicians and fans alike — but if the topic is bluegrass guitar players, there’s a universally correct answer to “who’s the best”; the late, great Tony Rice. Rice was unequivocally one of the most influential, inventive, and beloved musicians in all of bluegrass & Americana music, and after he passed away in late 2020, his songs and stylings continue to live on in the droves of musicians he inspired. This year, on the one-year anniversary of Rice’s passing, bluegrass instrumentalist and producer Barry Waldrep will be releasing quite the tribute to Mr. Rice with the 21-song, special-guest laden Barry Waldrep and Friends Celebrate Tony Rice. When looking through Waldrep’s list of friends, its apparent how far Rice’s music reached beyond just bluegrass. Americana greats Rodney Crowell and Jim Lauderdale and Jam-band royalty Warren Haynes and Oteil Burbridge make appearances alongside Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Spooner Oldham and Patrick Simmons & country superstars Vince Gill & Emmylou Harris. And that’s just a fraction of who’s contributed to this celebration of the music of Tony Rice. “Barry Waldrep and Friends Celebrate Tony Rice” will be available everywhere on December 24th.
I had the chance to catch up with Barry Waldrep to talk about someone we both grabbed onto early on in our ear careers. We talk about what is is about Mr. Rice’s ways that attracted us to him. Barry and I spend a whole lot of time dissecting the new album from songs to artists to give an insiders perspective into how this special collection became a reality. It is so clear that an open mind is part of the key to feeling the true impact of Mr. Rice’s music. There should be no boundaries. Our chat is not quite as great as the album – but I think the two go hand to ear or ear to hand. Check out some of the specifics: