Vernon Hughes is well known to bluegrass fans as a great mandolin player and singer, based on his work over the years with several bands, among them Appalachian Express and the Heights of Grass. Eugene Crabtree and Hughes, fresh from working with James King, have released Festival Style, a fine collection of straight-ahead instrumentals reminiscent of Alan Munde's Festival Favorites series. The lone vocal, Doorstep Of Trouble is also probably the only tune which isn't already in the standard bluegrass repertoire.
From Daybreak In Dixie, which starts out with a neat mandolin harmony, through Randy Lynn Rag, this is a collection with style, speed and timing. Hughes and Crabtree, assisted by Danny Hughes on guitar, Jim Skelding on fiddle and Dennis Farr on bass, play it straight and solid. It's great to hear new versions of Shenandoah Breakdown and Kentucky Mandolin. The way Crabtree storms through Kentucky Chimes will leave you breathless, but he doesn't sacrifice power for speed. Well, maybe Randy Lynn Rag gets a little ragged, but that's a lot of the fun of the festival style.
The recording quality is excellent. Danny Hughes' rhythm guitar chops fill the spaces and pump up the dynamics. The lead instruments pop out front the way they should, and there's a good, live feel to the whole effort. Both Hughes and Crabtree are aggressive pickers, jumping into the start of each break. The solos are clean and to the point - not too showy or elaborate. They show what these guys can do, and they can do plenty.
Hughes and Crabtree deliver what they've promised on Festival Style.