Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tony Rice's Voice - a Lost Treasure

I love Tony Rice's musicality. His guitar playing is sublime--superior--soaring above whatever song he plays and whomever joins him. Tonight I salute and sincerely regret the loss of his singing, even while his guitar picking remains. Tony, 61, suffers from dysphonia, and hasn't been able to sing since the early 1990s.

I first became aware of Tony's genius when he was playing "Dawg Music" as part of the David Grisman Quintet. He left in 1979, but he stayed active, and released albums as the Tony Rice Unit. This was instrumental, in the style of Grisman.

These days, I listen over and over to his incredible album, Tony Rice Sings Gordon Lightfoot. I savor Lightfoot anyway--having virtually every bit of his work (minus one tough-to-get concert album--probably available in vinyl only). This album is the aural equivalent of a massage. I put it on and lay back and enjoy--and often fall asleep. It got so I had to put the CD on in the middle so I'd get to hear the later tracks at all. This is no fault of Tony--the songs are good rousing bluegrass--but the musicality of everyone is so profoundly affecting that I simply relax. One especially stressful evening when I couldn't sleep I went out to the living room and put it on to try to get some sleep. It worked.

I have a CD called Quartet, by Peter Rowan and Tony Rice from five years ago. It features Tony with bluegrass legend Rowan and two fantastic female musicians/vocalists playing mandolin and bass. The ladies also sing the harmonies, because Tony can no longer do it.

I'll continue buying Tony's music, one album at a time, on iTunes. The Lightfoot tunes are spread across several, but he also has recorded many great bluegrass and folk classics. After listening to my collection as I washed the mountain of Thanksgiving dinner dishes, I just ordered up another album, Cold on the Shoulder. That's a Lightfoot, song, yes. So now I have two copies of Tony's rendition.

But, someday, I'll have all the Tony Rice singing there is, and there won't be any more. That's very sad.

1 comment:

Hugh Moore said...

Good reflections. Tony was a great singer - a singer first in a way - and it is sad he lost his smooth baritone voice.