Mike Auldridge (1938-2012) was one of modern bluegrass music's preeminent dobro players, both as a session player and as a solo artist. He came to prominence as a member of the Seldom Scene, one the trailblazing bands of the progressive bluegrass movement. Auldridge was a prolific collaborator, involved in numerous one-offs and side projects in groups such as Chesapeake, the Skylighters, the Resocasters, John Starling's Carolina, and others... Here's a quick look at his work...
Mike Auldridge "Dobro" (Takoma, 1972)
Mike Auldridge "Bluegrass And Blues" (Takoma, 1974)
Recorded in 1972, just as the acoustic music revival was really beginning to emerge from under the shadow of hippie-era rock scene, Mike Auldridge's groundbreaking Dobro album helped set the tone for the genre-bending musical explorations of the newgrass and spacegrass scenes that would follow. Many of the tunes were straightforward pick-athons, featuring able assistance by folks such as David Bromberg, Doyle Lawson and Auldridge's pals from the Seldom Scene. The album was a celebration of pure musicianship, a sort of insiders-club party, saying, "hey! look what we can do now!" The album also helped bring the so-called resophonic guitar, or dobro, into the bluegrass mainstream, opening the door for whippersnappers such as Jerry Douglas to explore the sound even further. Auldridge's playing is smooth and serene, a pleasure in and of itself; his choice of material and the sympathetic accompaniment are just icing on the cake. This new CD reissue pairs the original album up with its likeminded follow-up, Bluegrass And Blues, which is also quite lovely, but shows early hints of the formulae that would creep into the new acoustic scene, such as covers of pop tunes and jazz standards -- tricks that seem commonplace now, but were radically new back then. All in all, a sweet collection of tunes, quite pleasant to listen to.
Mike Auldridge "Mike Auldridge" (Flying Fish, 1976)
Auldridge's sleek follow-up album was equally satisfying, opening with a snappy resophonic dazzler, "Southern Rain," and working through various styles, ranging from bluesy Tin Pan Alley-ish instrumentals to lighthearted covers of pop tunes like "Last Train To Clarksville" and "California Dreaming." OK, I know what you're thinking with those last two, but this is sincerely an engaging and quite pleasant set of sweet super-picking and creative countrifying... Folks who can actually understand what Auldridge is doing technically will stand in awe of his abilities.
Mike Auldridge "...And Old Dog" (Flying Fish, 1978)
Mike Auldridge & Jeff Newman "Slidin' Smoke" (Flying Fish, 1978)
Sweet dobro from Mike Auldridge, intertwined with Jeff Newman's silky pedal steel... Nice combination! Auldridge gets to explore his country side, and even sing on a few tunes... Fans of acoustic instrumental music -- and pedal steel records -- will want to check this one out. Fiddler Johnny Gimble also sits in on a few tunes. Nice stuff.
Mike Auldridge "Eight String Swing" (Sugar Hill, 1988)
Mike Auldridge "Treasures Untold" (Sugar Hill, 1989)
Mike Auldridge, Lou Reid & Michael Coleman "High Time" (Sugar Hill, 1990)
Auldridge/Bennett/Gaudreau "This Old Town" (Rebel, 1999)
These three old-timers -- Seldom Scene's Mike Auldridge, Richard Bennett of the New South, and mandolin whiz Jimmy Gaudreau of Country Gentlemen fame -- obviously have a strong intuitive compatiblility and work well together. This album's a little on the softer, folkier side, with a tendency towards heartsongs and progressive bluegrass "story songs," with more than just a whiff of Gordon Lightfoot in the air. Some of the vocals are quite nice while others are a bit thick, lyrically; Gaudreau's Vietnam vet memoir, "Two Hearts," is a bit leaden, despite the best intentions. They also drift into a few Grisman-y instrumentals, which highlight the high-class picking that threads thoughout the album. Sweet stuff.
Mike Auldridge/Bob Brozman/David Grisman "Tone Poems III" (Acoustic Disc, 2000)
Three legendary pickers get together to exult in and show off their fabulous collections of vintage "resophonic" and slide guitars, mandolins and banjos. The pictures in the accompanying booklet -- with dozens of gorgeous Jazz Era, art deco instruments -- are enough to make one's jaw drop, but the music on the CD is pretty swell, too. In turns Fahey-esque, bluesy, dreamy, standards-oriented, neo-Hawaiian and somewhat plunky, this album is clearly the work of master musicians happily at play. It's also a really nice record to just chill out and relax to. Very nice.
Auldridge/Bennett/Gaudreau "Blue Lonesome Wind" (Rebel, 2001)
A nice follow-up to their first Rebel set. The opening tunes sound a bit brisk, but soulfullness creeps in on "My Aching Heart," and once again, the picking is quite impressive. Includes heartsongs, flowery ballads and poppish instrumentals, at times a bit muzak-y and overly sophisticated for me, especially on songs such as "City Of Lost Souls," which is kinda high-concept and prettified by a few too many key changes. Still, nice stuff when they hit the mark: fans of Tony Rice's vocal work should enjoy this disc.
Mike Auldridge & The Good Deale Bluegrass Band "Another Great Deale" (Flounder, 2003)
Hick Music Index