Bela Fleck—Drive (Mobile Fidelity) [SACD]

I don't know how many banjo players you can name, but I can come up with two: Bela Fleck and Roy Clark (and I had to cheat to get Roy Clark-before a trip to, it was "that guy from Hee-Haw"). Even if you've never heard of Bela Fleck, you've probably heard his music, as he's appeared on a ton of pop and jazz albums. He's won Grammys in the country, jazz, classical, and pop categories, but his roots are pure bluegrass.

In 1987, Fleck assembled some top bluegrass players to record his original compositions: Tony Rice on guitar, Sam Bush on mandolin, Jerry Douglas on dobro, Mark Schatz on bass, and Stuart Duncan and Mark O'Connor on fiddle. They recorded Drive in just four days; the result infused traditional bluegrass with an in-the-moment fervor that makes it very difficult to sit still when you're listening to it. If your toe's not a-tapping, check your pulse.

Mobile Fidelity's new Ultradisc UHR SACD version of Drive finally provides sound quality to match the excellent musicianship. It's a stereo-only hybrid SACD, but the two-channel mix has a rich, full sound. The album contains a bonus track, a run-through of "Shuckin' the Corn" that was recorded the first day the musicians sat down together. When you hear how tight and cohesive they were from the get-go, you truly appreciate the talent that all of these men possess. It makes me wish I'd practiced my violin more as a kid.