BOBBY OSBORNE, CAMPBELL BROTHERS | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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BOBBY OSBORNE, CAMPBELL BROTHERS

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The Osborne Brothers' place in bluegrass history is based on more than their fine harmony singing and the big hit they had with "Rocky Top." In the early 50s they played with the great Jimmy Martin; in 1960 they were the first bluegrass band to play a major show on a college campus, helping launch the folk revival, and by the end of the decade they were using electric instruments, piano, and drums, allowing them to keep landing singles on the country charts. In 2004 banjo player Sonny Osborne retired from the road after a rotator cuff injury, but on the recent Try a Little Kindness (Rounder), mandolinist Bobby Osborne demonstrates that even at 75 he's still got that high lonesome sound missing from much contemporary bluegrass, and as ever he can sing honky-tonk with the best of them.

The Campbell Brothers, a family band from Rochester, New York, have always played sacred steel--a strain of Pentecostal church music with steel guitar as the lead instrument--in a relatively pure form. But the crossover success enjoyed by young sacred steel whiz Robert Randolph seems to have caught their attention: their most recent album, Can You Feel It? (Ropeadope), was produced by jam-band star John Medeski, a bassist joined up to fill out the sound, and some tracks have a definite funk feel. Fortunately, the roof-raising power of steel players Chuck and Darick Campbell comes through unscathed.

Bobby Osborne headlines with his band the Rocky Top X-Press; the Campbell Brothers open. a 4 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $25, $21 kids and seniors. A

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