Top positive review
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Excellent collection of Golden Age Bluegrass
on 11 July 2011
This 50 track 2CD contains some of the best Bluegrass music ever recorded. Ranging from the Father of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe, to Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, Reno & Smiley, and Jim & Jesse McReynolds. Also included are Carl Story, who for all his ability would be surprised to find himself in this company, and the Louvin Brothers, who, for all their wonderful talent and beautiful music, are not Bluegrass musicians.
The curious thing about these bands, is that most of the principals started with Bill Monroe as Bluegrass Boys. Thus, when Earl Scruggs left the Bluegrass Boys with Lester Flatt, Don Reno replaced him on banjo. An apprenticeship with Monroe was almost a must-have before striking out on your own. Not that Bill Monroe was too happy about acting as a de facto training organisation. There was a well known grudge held against Flatt & Scruggs, not healed by their subsequent climb to fame.
And the music? Absolutely wonderful. The sound of a Bluegrass Band with all acoustic instruments, guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle and base, set off by vocal harmonies is one of the wonders to behold.
Most of these tracks are from the early 1950's, and the lead in on CD1, just has to be Bluegrass Special and the famous Blue Moon of Kentucky from Bill Monroe. The Stanleys material is from Mercury sessions and their sacred material like Angel Band is superb. Flatt & Scruggs material is from Mercury as well, and the Louvins, although not Bluegrass, contribute material from 1956 to 1963. The Reno & Smiley tracks are so welcome because they are largely ignored nowadays, and they are too good to forget. I'm The Talk Of the Town is a classic and a personal favourite. But its the Jim & Jesse tracks which steal the show. These are their Capitol recordings from 1952 to 1955, and tracks like Are You Missing Me, and Airmail Special have never been recorded better.
CD2 repeats the format from the artists, but here, Flatt & Scruggs shine with Doin' My Time and the great Dim Lights, Thick Smoke. A mention for Carl Story with the seminal Family Reunion, but on this CD you really get a chance to enjoy the variations in the instrumentals. Listen to Bill Monroe with his lead mandolin on Pike County Breakdown to Don Renos banjo prominence on Tennessee Cut Up Breakdown.
This is a great value for money release, and it gives people the opportunity to hear the originals. The sound is OK, the documentation so-so. But the music.....simply wonderful.