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Mud River Lee & the Bluegrass 3

Mud River Lee’s Live in the Tradition lives up to its name both in terms of song selection — 10 old bluegrass songs and one original — and in its format, seemingly an old school pickin’ session. In addition to the Three, there are several guests on banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and backing vocals. The latter have varying degrees of success; the harmonies with JoAnne Brunclik don’t always come off. Lee fares better with Joni Westwind, who sings on the last few tracks. While there may be issues with the vocals, there’s never any doubt about the musicians, who play tight and trade solos seamlessly. Check out stand out instrumentals “Black Mountain Rag” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” There’s also never any doubt of the enjoyment of all involved. Live in the Tradition documents the night of January 29, 2003, at Linneman’s, recorded and pressed as it came through the PA. This means a “warts and all” live sound — the vocals are way up in the mix for the first few songs — but it lends the recording a sense of intimacy (listen for glasses clinking in the background on “I Sailed the Simmons”). There is a sense that a good time is more important than technical perfection, and that is really what this album is about. Live in the Tradition is available at Atomic Records for $5.95, or at gigs for $5.00. Mud River Lee and the Bluegrass 3 perform at Onopa Brewery on Friday, July 9, from 6-8 p.m. during the Friday Fish Fry.