Fiddler extraordinaire Mark O’Connor has played on close to 500 sessions since he arrived in Nashville six years ago, fresh from winning every important fiddling contest in the country. Now tapering off his session work with such stars as Randy Travis and Reba McEntire, O’Connor has made his fifth major-label solo album, The New Nashville Cats, a tribute to veteran Nashville session players. More than 50 contribute to this remarkable record, which includes singing by sidemen-turned-stars Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs. Almost every musical style from Carl Perkins rockabilly to classical is heard here, including the mountain-tinged ”Traveller’s Ridge” and the near bebop of ”Sweet Suzanne.” Although some of the playing is too flashy, it’s almost always emotionally resonant. Along with a handful of producers, these are the folks who revitalized the Nashville sound after the assault of the urban cowboys in the early ’80s, and turned a country music town into an international recording center. Their virtuosity here tells all.
The New Nashville Cats