Reno & Smiley – Bluegrass 1963 (Rural Rhythm, 2010)
These eighteen live performances are drawn from Reno & Smiley’s program, Top o’ the Morning, which aired daily on Roanoke, Virginia’s WDBJ-TV. Recorded in 1963, only a year before Red Smiley’s initial retirement, the titles highlight many of the duo’s classics (including a terrific version of “I Wouldn’t Change You If I could”), well-selected standards (including a fiercely picked rendition of “Panhandle Country”), and guest spots by Ralph and Carter Stanley. The former joins Don Reno for a banjo duet on “Home Sweet Home,” and all four stars sing and play together on “Over in the Gloryland.” Reno & Smiley are backed throughout by their long-time accompanists, the Tennessee Cut-Ups, and though the mono recordings are missing some high-end on the first eight tracks and a few at disc’s end, the quality and joy of the singing and playing (especially Don Reno’s banjo picking and Mac Magaha’s fiddling) make these well worth hearing. The introductory chatter is edited to a minimum, so this set is primarily music; it would be interesting to hear a full program, if producer Ronnie Reno has any among his archives.