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Tony Rice: Innovating the Bluegrass Music

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Tony Rice, the most outstanding bluegrass guitarist, is the best innovator in acoustic guitar since he spanned the range of acoustic music, from straight-ahead bluegrass to jazz-influenced new acoustic music, to songwriter-oriented folk. Through his career, he played together with the New South, David Grisman, and J.D. Crowe. Some of the instruments used by Rice to play include soprano sax, drums, piano, and straight-ahead bluegrass instrumentation.

Rice was fascinated toward bluegrass due to his father’s influence for this particular genre. He also acquired a lot of music knowledge from Ry Cooder, Chris Hillman, and Herb Pederson who reinforced what his father had taught him. After coming back to Kentucky, he joined Bluegrass Alliance and then the New South. However, because of moving to California, he became part of Grisman’s instrumental group.

Beyond being a mere singer, his positive way of seeing life permitted him to study chord theory, learn to read charts, and increase the level of his playing. Since that was not enough, he left the band in order to pursue a solo career. His early recordings include “Acoustics” and “Manzanita”. Due to the success of his album “Cold on the Shoulder”, Rice was able to add the songwriting of folk artists’ influences such as Joni Mitchell, Ian Tyson, Bob Dylan and specifically Gordon Lightfoot with nimble, jazz-inflected guitar work. His most recent hit for Rounders is “You Were There Foe Me”. In spite of his greatest accomplishments, he unfortunately suffered from problems with his voice, impeding him the same high-quality performance. Instead, he is still regarded as one of the prominent instrumentalists, full of vitality and originality to his music.

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