When I'm Free
On their first studio album in nearly a quarter-century, Hot Rize touch upon all the elements that first established them as bluegrass innovators. Tim O’Brien, Pete Wernick, Nick Forster, and recent recruit Bryan Sutton dive into this set with gusto, effortlessly blurring any distinctions between traditional Appalachian modes and modern bluegrass refinements. O’Brien’s fluent touch on mandolin and fiddle is in fine form, complemented by his ardent tenor vocals. Tasty licks are likewise provided by Wernick’s banjo and Sutton’s guitar, anchored by Forster’s resolute bass work. It adds up to an excellent return to form by a truly legendary ensemble.