Some musicians battle continually with the demons of early fame while others age gracefully. Roland White, older brother of the late guitar great Clarence White, is among the latter. His career started professionally in the late '50ís with the Kentucky Colonels, consisting of Roland on mandolin, brother Clarence on guitar, Billy Ray Latham on banjo, and Roger Bush on bass. After Clarence left the band in 1966 to do studio sessions and join the Byrds, Roland briefly took up playing bass in local lounge bands before hooking up with Bill Monroe as a guitarist and singer. After two years with Bill he joined guitarist Lester Flatt on mandolin and vocals. His four-year stint with Flatt was followed by a reunion with Clarence in "The New Kentucky Colonels." The bandís rosy future was cut short by a tragic automobile accident. Clarence and Roland were loading their equipment into a car after a gig when they were both struck by an automobile. Clarence was killed and Roland sustained minor injuries. After recovering, Roland went to Nashville where he joined the band "Country Gazette" with Alan Munde and former band-mate Roger Bush. After 13 years playing guitar with Country Gazette, Roland joined The Nashville Bluegrass Band as a mandolin player. He remained with NBB for the next 12 years, winning a Grammy for bluegrass album of the year before leaving to put together his own band. Jelly On My Tofu is their first release.
The core band on Jelly On My Tofu includes Richard Bailey on banjo, Todd Cook on bass and vocals, Diane Bouska on guitar and vocals, and Roland on mandolin and vocals. Special guests are Stuart Duncan and Andy Leftwich on fiddle, Alan Munde on banjo, Mark Howard on bass vocal, and Kenny Malone on brushes. Along with three new original instrumentals from Roland, Jelly On My Tofu features songs by Mark James, Betty Harrison, Richard Bailey, B.F. Shook, Joe Hayes, Jerry Leiber, Shel Silverstein, and Bill Monroe. The Bandís renditions highlight Rolandís smooth yet rustic mandolin playing seasoned with double-stops, tremolo, and hammer-ons. Diane Bouska's lead vocals work especially well on the ragtime number "Flesh, Blood, and Bone." Roland and Diane's voices blend beautifully; just listen to "Hoping that you're Hoping" and ďSomeone You Have Forgotten." Overall the bandís sound is closer to old-timey than bluegrass, with a more relaxed presentation and laid-back rhythms instead of super-hyped up bluegrass pacing.
Sonically the CD is a mixed bag. While clear, the sound is a quite dry and lacks any sense of room or space. Compared with the typical release from Acoustic Disc or Sugar Hill Jelly In My Tofu sounds a bit dry and forward. While the sound isn't bad and doesn't get in the way of the music, a musician of Rolandís caliber deserves a bit better sonics on a par with his musicianship.
Jelly on My Tofu certainly answers the question "What has Roland White been doing since he left NBB?" Anyone who appreciates fine seasoned playing will find Jelly on My Tofu very much to his or her liking. If you canít find a copy at your local record store contact their website.