Tony Rice might be the best guitarist you’ve never heard of. He’s made a name for himself with his wildly inventive and beautiful playing in the bluegrass/newgrass/folk world. The audience for the music is small, but the music and its players are up there with the best in the world.
This past September, Rice was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. The New York Times Magazine seems to take the induction as the occasion to profile Rice in Sandra Beasley’s article “Tony Rice, guitar hero.” Rice is now struggling with physical issues that have hobbled his playing and singing — he lost his singing voice 19 years ago — but he is an artist worth getting to know.
Beasley mentions a few songs featuring Rice’s playing, most of which are accessible in some version on video, as is Rice’s IBMA acceptance speech that is reported in the article. One song Beasley mentions is “Freeborn Man.” The video below includes Rice singing and playing it at full power along with instrumental geniuses Mark O’Connor on fiddle, Sam Bush on mandolin, Jerry Douglas on resophonic guitar, and Bela Fleck on banjo: this is heavy metal.