Album Review of
40th Anniversary Celebration

Written by Joe Ross
June 30, 2020 - 7:18pm EDT
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Gary “Stretch” Brewer, from Louisville, Ky. celebrates his 40th anniversary in the bluegrass music business with an album of originals and a host of all-star guest artists. As a kid, Brewer was into rock music until he “got run over by a car” and began playing acoustic guitar and singing old songs during his hospital recovery. With a couple rock ‘n’ roll buddies, he formed the “The Kentucky Ramblers” in 1980. About that time, he bought Bill Monroe’s bus (called the “Bluegrass Breakdown”), started Louisville’s “Strictly Bluegrass” Festival, began touring and recording albums with his characteristic “brewgrass” music. Eventually, his band came to include his father Finley and two sons Wayne and Mason. On this album, Brewer’s liner notes say that the song “Girl from the Mountain” explains what brewgrass is. Like all of his songs, it has that bluegrass drive, full of hot picking, soaring vocals and emotional electricity. And who better to impart impressively virtuosic licks to the project than award-winning multi-instrumentalist Ron Stewart who contributes banjo and fiddle on all tracks. On this celebratory album, Brewer’s guests also include first-call musicians like The Travelin’ McCourys (“Goin’ Up Shell Creek”), Sam Bush (“Blues Down in Kentucky”), Dale Ann Bradley (“Daddy and the Old Oak Tree”), T, Graham Brown (“Money to Ride the Train”), Russell Moore (“The Rain is Coming Down”), Ralph Stanley II (“Home Ain’t the Way it Used to Be”), Doug Phelps (“Big Train”), Ashton Shepherd (“I Don’t Know What’s Become of Me”). This album closes with his hit, “Sally-O” (about his Papaw Brewer’s milk cow), a song that garnered considerable radio success and led to Brewer’s first guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry in 1995. This album is a perfect way to recognize a man’s 40-year professional bluegrass music career. It also secures a place for Gary Brewer & the Kentucky Ramblers as one of the most engaging and dynamic acts on the bluegrass scene.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)