Music from Rancho deVille
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2001, Volume 8, #5
Written by John Metzger
After a five-year battle with leukemia, Charles Sawtelle — the guitarist for the acclaimed bluegrass ensemble Hot Rize — passed on in 1999, leaving behind a series of recordings that were meant to become his first solo album. Many of these songs were incomplete: Let’s Go Home remained untitled, the lyrics to My Life Is in Your Hands had yet to be crafted, and many of the others lacked vocal tracks.
Indeed, Sawtelle had wanted to handle all of the vocals himself, but as his health declined, he was forced to alter his plans. Even in his waning days, he continued to outline his vision for completing the album, so it only made sense for his close friend and producer Laurie Lewis to see the project come to fruition.
A total of sixteen tracks were chosen to grace the album, named for Sawtelle’s studio. These songs cover such diverse, roots-oriented ground as Tex-Mex, Cajun, bluegrass, and old-time blues and folk. It’s no wonder Sawtelle was asked to produce Leftover Salmon’s debut Bridges to Bert. It was a perfect marriage of old-style Americana with the jam band musings of newgrass.
Music from Rancho deVille may be more traditional in nature, but it should appeal to fans on both sides of this fence. Its all-star line-up — which includes David Grisman, Flaco Jimenez, Michael Doucet, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Richard Greene, Darol Anger, and others — honors Sawtelle’s life and celebrates his gift to music. Many of the songs simply feature the smooth, sweetly flowing sound of his guitar as gently laid upon a bed of acoustic instrumentation. As a result, Music from Rancho deVille has become not only a fine (and often gorgeous) debut, but also a fitting goodbye. And it’s definitely an album of which Sawtelle would have been proud.
Music from Rancho DeVille is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box