Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Bill Monroe - Blue Grass 1950-1958, Vol. 01 - Vol.04 [1989] (4 x CD's)



Bill Monroe - Blue Grass 1950-1958, Vol. 01 - Vol.04 [1989] (4 x CD's)

In 1950, Bill Monroe had been on his own with the Bluegrass Boys for over 11 years and had been a Grand Ol Opry member for over ten. More importantly, he had had a successful run with Columbia records and had left it, as his music had continued to develop for what he perceived to a brighter, more lucrative future with Decca in 1950. As usual, Monroe's instinct was correct. The 103 selections compiled here are from Monroe's most fertile, creative period, many of the songs recorded during this era became his signature tracks, such as "Uncle Pen," "Raw Hide," "Get Down on Your Knees and Pray," "Little Georgia Rose," "On and On," "Roanoke," "The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake," "Kentucky Waltz," and many others. It was while at Decca that he introduced and recorded his original and trademark mandolin tuning - where instead of four pairs of strings tuned to the same pitches as a violin, he tuned several pairs of strings to two different notes that added the otherworldly timbres to his "high lonesome" sound. In addition to Monroe's recording with the Bluegrass Boys, there are a number of sessions here that put Monroe in the solo spotlight with some of Nashville's hottest session cats, in an attempt by Decca to put Monroe's music in a more modern and mainstream country setting. What is most noteworthy about the period of recordings here, however - besides the tracks themselves - are the musicians that played with Monroe during those very fertile and adventurous years. Guitarists included none other than Jimmy Martin from 1950-1954, then Carter Stanley briefly before Eddie Mayfield signed on, as did Jackie Phelps for a time, and Doug Kershaw. Bassists Ernie Newton and Bessie Lee Mauldin joined the band for the first time on these recordings, as did Buddy Killen briefly, and then Culley Holt. Fiddle players were plentiful and stunning during the '50s. Monroe certainly had the pick of the crop in Vassar Clements, Charley Cline, Bobby Hicks, and others. And banjo pickers, while hard to come by still in that three-finger style, were as fine as they came in Rudy Lyle, Don Stover, and Joe Stuart. There is the association here with legendary producer Owen Bradley as a sideman toward the end of the '50s, and the influence of Monroe on the music of the time, where his main competition, Flatt & Scruggs, grudgingly (briefly) adopted Monroe's Nashville style to further their own careers, and the spin-offs by Jimmy Martin and others began successful recording careers as well. The story the recordings themselves tell is one of ambition, vision, and restlessness. The songs come in strange batches: There are the numerous co-writes with Hank Williams, sometimes credited, other times willfully - but for no known reason - obscured in their authorship. But Monroe's own writing was red-hot as well. His own compositions easily overshadow anything he covered during these years. Monroe was hunting ever deeper and wider for the elusive element that was the very grain of his style of music. He fought hard to keep it contemporary while not giving up anything in return. While it is not explained in the liner notes, his two Decca sessions with Nashville studio cats were perhaps a compromise Monroe himself made to keep the music of the Bluegrass Boys pure. These sessions, five and seven, included many fine songs, including "Sailor's Plea," "Highway of Sorrow," "My Carolina Sunshine Girl," "Peach Picking Time in Georgia," and others, but only three of them were ever issued before the compilation of this box, the rest, as fine as they were, left in the bins and the liner notes in the book, as fine as they are does not explain why the choices were made at the time to leave them on the shelf. In all, this is a stunning collection of Monroe's music at the beginning of his modern era, his first fully mature recordings that would prove so timeless and influential are here, not on the Columbia.

Bill Monroe was the undisputed creator of bluegrass music (named so by country DJs after his band the Bluegrass Boys which, in turn, was Monroe's reference to the 'blue grass' of his home state of Kentucky). This set collects all of his Decca recordings from 1950-1958 and contains many of his most powerful and iconic songs. Along with the Columbia 1945-49 records, this represents the peak of Monroe's power and creativity.

Bear Family, as usual, has also provided an in-depth book which gives a Monroe bio and detailed recording info. This is not a cheap set but, in addition to the research and packaging, Bear Family licensed the original Decca master recordings as its source. There is a more recent collection of the same material from JSP that is much less expensive but, since they only release recordings that are in the public domain in Europe, they don't have access to these masters and have to rely on inferior sources. A must for any true bluegrass fan. (Amazon)


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Track lists


01 Bill Monroe Bluegrass Ramble 2:13

02 Bill Monroe New Muleskinner Blues 2:31

03 Bill Monroe My Little Georgia Rose 3:07

04 Bill Monroe Memories Of You 3:00

05 Bill Monroe I'm On My Way To The Old Home 2:26

06 Bill Monroe Alabama Waltz 2:25

07 Bill Monroe I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome 2:51

08 Bill Monroe I'll Meet You In Church, Sunday Morning 2:49

09 Bill Monroe Boat Of Love 2:45

10 Bill Monroe The Old Fiddler 2:36

11 Bill Monroe Uncle Pen 2:44

12 Bill Monroe When The Golden Leaves Begin To Fall 3:02

13 Bill Monroe Lord, Protect My Soul 2:42

14 Bill Monroe River Of Death 2:42

15 Bill Monroe Letter From My Darling 3:08

16 Bill Monroe On The Old Kentucky Shore 3:13

17 Bill Monroe Rawhide 2:37

18 Bill Monroe Poison Love 2:37

19 Bill Monroe Kentucky Waltz 3:17

20 Bill Monroe Prisoner's Song 2:41

21 Bill Monroe Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 2:43

22 Bill Monroe Angels Rock Me To Sleep 2:40

23 Bill Monroe Brakeman's Blues 2:36

24 Bill Monroe Travelin' Blues 2:53

25 Bill Monroe When The Cactus Is In Bloom 2:03


01 Bill Monroe Sailor's Plea 2:36

02 Bill Monroe My Carolina Sunshine Girl 2:39

03 Bill Monroe Ben Dewberry's Final Run 2:42

04 Bill Monroe Peach Pickin' Time In Georgia 2:18

05 Bill Monroe Those Gambler's Blues 2:35

06 Bill Monroe Highway Of Sorrow 2:54

07 Bill Monroe Rotation Blues 2:56

08 Bill Monroe Lonesome Truck Driver's Blues 2:54

09 Bill Monroe Sugar Coated Love 2:24

10 Bill Monroe You're Drifting Away 2:36

11 Bill Monroe Cabin Of Love 2:40

12 Bill Monroe Get Down On Your Knees And Pray 3:01

13 Bill Monroe Christmas Time's A-Coming 2:48

14 Bill Monroe The First Whipoorwill 2:54

15 Bill Monroe In The Pines 3:12

16 Bill Monroe Footprints In The Snow 2:41

17 Bill Monroe Walking In Jerusalem 1:59

18 Bill Monroe Memories Of Mother And Dad 2:58

19 Bill Monroe The Little Girl And The Dreadful Snake 3:04

20 Bill Monroe Country Waltz 2:25

21 Bill Monroe Don't Put It Off Til Tomorrow 2:37

22 Bill Monroe My Dying Bed 2:48

23 Bill Monroe A Mighty Pretty Waltz 2:42

24 Bill Monroe Pike County Breakdown 2:41

25 Bill Monroe Wishing Waltz 2:37

26 Bill Monroe I Hope You Have Learned 2:28

27 Bill Monroe Get Up, John 2:09


01 Bill Monroe Sitting Alone In The Moonlight 2:29

02 Bill Monroe Plant Some Flowers By My Grave 2:40

03 Bill Monroe Changing Partners 2:15

04 Bill Monroe Y'all Come 2:17

05 Bill Monroe On And On 2:48

06 Bill Monroe I Believe In You, Darling 2:38

07 Bill Monroe New John Henry Blues 2:29

08 Bill Monroe White House Blues 2:13

09 Bill Monroe Happy On My Way 2:11

10 Bill Monroe I'm Working On A Building 2:45

11 Bill Monroe A Voice From On High 2:37

12 Bill Monroe He Will Set Your Fields On Fire 2:38

13 Bill Monroe Close By 2:30

14 Bill Monroe My Little Georgia Rose 2:41

15 Bill Monroe Put My Little Shoes Away 2:33

16 Bill Monroe Blue Moon Of Kentucky 2:08

17 Bill Monroe Wheel Hoss 2:20

18 Bill Monroe Cheyenne 2:51

19 Bill Monroe You'll Find Her Name Written There 2:52

20 Bill Monroe Roanoke 2:39

21 Bill Monroe Wait A Little Longer, Please, Jesus 2:39

22 Bill Monroe Let The Light Shine Down On Me 1:58

23 Bill Monroe Used To Be 2:07

24 Bill Monroe Tall Timber 2:22

25 Bill Monroe Brown Country Breakdown 2:27

26 Bill Monroe A Fallen Star 2:10

27 Bill Monroe Four Walls 2:21

28 Bill Monroe A Good Woman's Love 2:22

29 Bill Monroe Cry Darlin' 2:24

30 Bill Monroe I'm Sitting On Top Of The World 2:21


01 Bill Monroe Out In The Cold World 2:36

02 Bill Monroe Roane County Prison 3:11

03 Bill Monroe Goodbye, Old Pal 2:06

04 Bill Monroe In Despair 2:17

05 Bill Monroe Molly And Tenbrooks 2:23

06 Bill Monroe Come Back To Me, In My Dreams 2:25

07 Bill Monroe Sally-Jo 2:39

08 Bill Monroe Brand New Shoes 2:12

09 Bill Monroe A Lonesome Road 2:40

10 Bill Monroe I Saw The Light 2:30

11 Bill Monroe Lord, Build Me A Cabin In Glory 2:04

12 Bill Monroe Lord, Lead Me On 2:27

13 Bill Monroe Precious Jewel 3:16

14 Bill Monroe I'll Meet You In The Morning 2:12

15 Bill Monroe Life's Railway To Heaven 2:50

16 Bill Monroe I've Found A Hiding Place 3:27

17 Bill Monroe Jesus, Hold My Hand 2:25

18 Bill Monroe I Am A Pilgrim 2:34

19 Bill Monroe Wayfaring Stranger 3:07

20 Bill Monroe A Beautiful Life 2:28

21 Bill Monroe House Of Gold 2:08

22 Bill Monroe Panhandle Country 2:05

23 Bill Monroe Scotland 1:53

24 Bill Monroe Gotta Travel On 2:34

25 Bill Monroe No One But My Darlin' 2:05

26 Bill Monroe Big Mon 2:17

27 Bill Monroe Monroe's Hornpipe 1:58