Richard Greene, one of the most respected bluegrass fiddle players ever has deep roots. His very first recording session was in 1966 for an album on the County label by Red Allen called Bluegrass Country, Volume Two. That same year, he became one of the first urban musicians to join Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. While there, he recorded 14 songs with the Father of Bluegrass, including “Turkey in the Straw,” “Dusty Miller,” “Paddy on the Turnpike,” and “Soldiers Joy.” Other career highlights included his formation of the “roots fusion” band Seatrain, his participation in the “bluegrass supergroup” Muleskinner (along with David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Clarence White, etc.), the Greene String Quartet, and The Grass is Greener.
It was with The Grass is Greener that Richard came to Rebel. The debut configuration of the group included Greene on fiddle, banjoist Bill Keith, David Grier (guitar), Kenny Blackwell (mandolin), and Tim Emmons (bass). The group’s first release, which was titled simply The Grass is Greener (Reb-1714), was in many ways an homage to Bill Monroe, with half of the tunes emanating from him: “Methodist Preacher,” “Northern White Clouds,” “Stoney Lonesome,” “Panhandle Country,” “Kentucky Mandolin,” and “ Brown County Breakdown.” Among the highlights were Grier’s tour de force renderings of “Whiskey Before Breakfast” and “Beaumont Rag” as well as a guest appearance by Chris Thile on “Panhandle Country.”
The second release for The Grass is Greener was titled Wolves A’ Howling (Reb-1730). This record saw the addition of three new band members: Butch Baldassari on mandolin, Tony Trischka on banjo, and Buell Neidlinger on bass. Hailed as a collection of “taste, drive and invention,” the CD built upon the strong foundation of the previous release. While only two selections came from the Monroe catalog (“Evening Prayer Blues” and “Get Up John”), the collective combined excellence and innovation with a healthy respect for tradition to arrive at a dynamic set of recordings. Unlike their previous outing, this set contained a number of band originals. Richard Greene composed “The Indiana Waltz” and “The Pipehorn Hornpipe,” David Grier contributed “On the Move” and “Sometime Next Summer,” and Tony Trischka added “Peaches and Cream.” The remainder of the disc was filled with deft arrangements of traditional pieces such as “Shaking Off the Acorns,” “Charleston,” “Horse Shoe Bend,” and “Nervous Breakdown.”
Richard’s last recording for Rebel was 1997’s Sales Tax Toddle (Reb-1737). Slightly over half of the CD featured the same band lineup as the previous project. This group sailed through a series of traditional tunes such as “The Drunken Man’s Dream,” “I’ll Be Sixteen Next Sunday,” “16 Days in Georgia,” and the standout “Little Rabbit.” Also effective were two Greene originals, “Done Gone Waltz” and “Last Ride.” For the five remaining tracks, guitarist/vocalist Peter Rowan and legendary banjoist Sonny Osborne were on board. They were, like Richard, former Blue Grass Boys and it’s no surprise that they were featured on songs from Bill Monroe. In a break from the earlier CDs, this disc featured a number of vocal selections, all of which were superbly rendered by Peter Rowan. These included “Along About Daybreak,” “With Body and Soul,” “My Little Georgia Rose,” “Close By,” and “No One But My Darlin’.” The album was nominated for both Grammy and IBMA awards in 1998 for Best Bluegrass Album.