Formed in the late 1970s, progressive bluegrass outfit Hot Rize reconvened for a celebrated run of dates in 1996, including a two-night stand at the Boulder (Colo.) Theater from which this album was c

Formed in the late 1970s, progressive bluegrass outfit Hot Rize reconvened for a celebrated run of dates in 1996, including a two-night stand at the Boulder (Colo.) Theater from which this album was compiled. Made up of picking titans Tim O'Brien (mandolin, fiddle), Nick Forster (bass), Pete Wernick (banjo), and the late Charles Sawtelle (guitar), Hot Rize was playing its first live dates in six years at the time, and the renewed vigor shows. Tighter than bark on a tree, Hot Rize tears it up and pleases the crowd on such cuts as the high lonesome "Blue Night," the call-and-response "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning," and runaway trains like "Frank's Blues" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." While each member dazzles, Sawtelle's fearless guitar work is often the glue that holds this together, particularly on such gems as "The Butcher's Dog" and the rambunctious "Empty Pocket Blues." Totally impressive.—RW

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