Classic Bluegrass from Smithsonian Folkways

Classic Bluegrass from Smithsonian Folkways


The 25 cuts on this exhilarating compilation speak well for Smithsonian's vision of mapping the genre's post-World War II evolution from traditional to progressive, and the persistence of tradition within the progressive framework. Bill Monroe is here, of course, with two standout cuts, including a chilling gospel song, "When He Reached Down His Hand for Me," one of…  See more details below


The 25 cuts on this exhilarating compilation speak well for Smithsonian's vision of mapping the genre's post-World War II evolution from traditional to progressive, and the persistence of tradition within the progressive framework. Bill Monroe is here, of course, with two standout cuts, including a chilling gospel song, "When He Reached Down His Hand for Me," one of the lesser-known tunes in the Monroe canon. A Monroe cut also closes out the festivities: the instrumental "Get Up John," featuring a jaw-dropping display of virtuosity in a performance recorded live in 1965 at the first Fincastle Bluegrass Festival, reputed to be the first of its kind. The Stanley Brothers show up twice, and memorably so, particularly on the speed-picked humorous number "Rabbit in a Log," which also features the brothers cracking each other up on stage in the midst of their instrumental showdown. Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard offer up some keening mountain harmony on an emotional treatise from 1973, "Tiny Broken Heart." Doc Watson, playing solo acoustic, brings his impeccable flat-picking technique and earthy voice to a wry, sprightly breakup song, "The Train That Carried My Girl from Town," and is heard again supporting progressive banjo player Roger Sprung on 1963's "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise." "The first lady of banjo," Roni Stoneman, tears up the place with some hot pickin' on the instrumental "Lonesome Road Blues," and the New Lost City Ramblers, the Lonesome Strangers, the Johnson Mountain Boys, and the Country Gentlemen are among the other stalwart artists whose captivating performances justify this album's title.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Rick Anderson
While bluegrass samplers are by no means rare, it's unusual to encounter one as well thought-out as this generous (and mid-priced) package from Smithsonian Folkways, the folk label known more for its ethnomusicological field recordings than its bluegrass albums. Cynics will point out that this collection comes hot on the heels of the success of the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and its soundtrack, but they miss the point: if bluegrass becomes trendy for a while and the result is fine albums like this one that wouldn't otherwise have an audience, then everyone benefits. The artists on Classic Bluegrass From Smithsonian Folkways range from the obvious (Bill Monroe, the Country Gentlemen, Doc Watson, the Stanley Brothers) through the influential but obscure (Red Allen, the Lilly Brothers) to the just plain obscure (Smiley Hobbs, Hugh Moore, banjo innovator Roger Sprung), and the result is a thorough overview that offers as much musical satisfaction as scholarly edification. Many of the songs selected were recorded live, and those are among the best performances: the Johnson Mountain Boys deliver a bit of pitch-perfect high-lonesome heartbreak on "Our Last Goodbye," while the Friendly City Playboys kick things into high gear with the hard-edged "Teardrops in My Eyes." Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard illustrate an important thematic stream in bluegrass songwriting with their rendition of the horrifying "Tiny Broken Heart," and the Stanley Brothers reveal some of the roots of bluegrass with their performance of "Little Birdie" (on which Ralph Stanley plays banjo in the older "clawhammer" style). Highly recommended, especially to anyone looking for an introduction to the genre.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Smithsonian Folkways

Related Subjects


  1. White House Blues  - Earl Taylor
  2. Our Last Goodbye  -  Johnson Mountain Boys
  3. When He Reached Down His Hand for Me  -  Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys
  4. Tiny Broken Heart  - Alice Gerrard
  5. New Camptown Races  -  Kentuckians
  6. Suzanne  - Mike Lilly
  7. I Heard My Mother Call My Name in Prayer  -  Nashville Grass
  8. Teardrops in My Eyes  -  Friendly City Playboys
  9. Cumberland Gap  - Snuffy Jenkins
  10. Live and Let Live  -  Kentuckians
  11. The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise  - Roger Sprung
  12. Hello City Limits  - Hugh Moore
  13. (Legend of The) Brown Mountain Light  -  Country Gentlemen
  14. Lonesome Road Blues  - Roni Stoneman
  15. The Train That Carried My Girl from Town  - Doc Watson
  16. The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake  -  New Lost City Ramblers
  17. Little Birdie  -  Stanley Brothers
  18. Rabbit in a Log  -  Stanley Brothers
  19. Grey Eagle  -  David & Billie Ray Johnson
  20. Wayfaring Stranger  - Cullen Gaylean
  21. Billy in the Lowground  -  Lonesome Strangers
  22. The Rebel Girl  - Hazel Dickens
  23. Train  - Smiley Hobbs
  24. 'Neath a Cold Gray Tomb of Stone  - Don Stover
  25. Get Up John  -  Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Eddie Adcock   Banjo
Country Gentlemen   Track Performer
Johnson Mountain Boys   Track Performer
Lilly Brothers   Track Performer
Nashville Grass   Track Performer
Peter Rowan   Guitar
Stanley Brothers   Track Performer
Ralph Stanley   Banjo,Vocals
Mac Wiseman   Guitar,Vocals
Bill Keith   Banjo
Benny Martin   Fiddle,Vocals
Frank Wakefield   Mandolin
Doc Watson   Guitar,Vocals
Hazel Dickens   Bass,Guitar,Vocals
New Lost City Ramblers   Track Performer
Mike Seeger   Bass,Mandolin,Vocals
Lonesome Strangers   Track Performer
Don Stover   Banjo
Tom Adams   Banjo,Vocals
Ron Mesing   Dobro
Snuffy Jenkins   Banjo
Roger Sprung   Banjo
Don Reno   Banjo,Vocals
Harley Allen   Guitar,Mandolin,Vocals
Red Allen   Guitar,Vocals
John Cohen   Guitar
Dudley Connell   Guitar,Vocals
Eugene Cox   Guitar
Vernon Derrick   Fiddle
Ira Dimmery   Guitar
Alice Gerrard   Track Performer
Lamar Grier   Banjo
David Grisman   Mandolin
Bobby Harrison   Guitar,Vocals
John Herald   Guitar
Smiley Hobbs   Banjo
Sam Porky Hutchins   Guitar,Vocals
Pete Kuykendall   Mandolin
Everett Lilly   Mandolin,Vocals
David McLaughlin   Fiddle,Mandolin,Vocals
Tracy Schwarz   Fiddle,Vocals
Curly Seckler   Guitar,Vocals
Carter Stanley   Guitar,Vocals
Roni Stoneman   Track Performer
Eddie Stubbs   Fiddle,Vocals
Bob Thomas   Drums
Tom Morgan   Guitar
Charlie Waller   Guitar,Vocals
John Warren   Fiddle,Vocals
Marshall Wilborn   Bass
Gene Wooten   Dobro
Earl Yager   Bass
Bob Yellin   Banjo
Hugh Moore   Banjo,Vocals
John Duffey   Mandolin,Vocals
Herb Hooven   Bass,Fiddle
David Johnson   Fiddle,Steel Guitar
Bea Lilly   Guitar
Billy Edwards   Banjo
Walter Hensley   Banjo,Vocals
Dale Lee   Bass
Mike Lilly   Banjo,Vocals
Kenny Ingram   Banjo,Vocals
Dane Bowers   Fiddle,Mandolin
Fred Weisz   Bass
Scott Adams   Mandolin,Vocals
Billy Baker   Fiddle
Oliver Phillips   Bass
Larry Nager   Bass
Billie Ray Johnson   Guitar
Vernon "Boatwhistle" McIntyre   Bass
Warren Pinnix   Bass,Vocals
Willis Spears   Guitar,Vocals
Buddy Pendleton   Fiddle
Greg Allen   Banjo,Vocals
Curley Lambert   Mandolin

Technical Credits

Bill Monroe   Composer
Doc Watson   Composer
John Cohen   Cover Photo
Joe Hill   Composer
Jeff Place   Producer,Liner Notes
Carter Stanley   Composer
Gene Sullivan   Composer
Wiley Walker   Composer
Lee Michael Demsey   Producer,Liner Notes
Traditional   Composer
Wilbur Jones   Composer

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