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Don't Cry to Me
     

Don't Cry to Me

by Jimmy Martin
 
Along with Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin is the foremost living link to bluegrass music's ground zero: His five-year stint with Bill Monroe produced some of the genre's landmark recordings, to which Martin lent not only his aggressive approach to rhythm guitar but also the vocal style that was dubbed "high

Overview

Along with Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin is the foremost living link to bluegrass music's ground zero: His five-year stint with Bill Monroe produced some of the genre's landmark recordings, to which Martin lent not only his aggressive approach to rhythm guitar but also the vocal style that was dubbed "high lonesome." After leaving Monroe and forming his own Sunny Mountain Boys, Martin quickly set himself apart by virtue of his music's insistent drive and the fierce commitment underpinning his vocals. These virtues are on ample display in this 16-track collection of mostly vintage recordings; these songs also comprise the soundtrack to a forthcoming documentary film about Martin's life and career. Apart from a 1954 studio track cut with Monroe, the heartfelt love song "On and On," most of the cuts are live performances, including several previously unreleased takes from the Louisiana Hayride and some rare 1960 recordings made by Mike Seeger in Pennsylvania's Sunset Park. The past, present, and future meet here, as Martin regularly employed musicians who took the music in directions even he hadn't imagined. J.D. Crowe's furious banjo fusillade on 1958's "John Henry" points the way to the progressive movement he would pioneer more than a decade later. The merciless attack the band mounts behind Martin's spiteful vocal on "You Don't Know My Mind" lends rock 'n' roll fury to the tune -- it's some serious bluegrass declaiming and picking all at once. At the other end of the emotional spectrum, the tight, keening harmonies on the traditional gospel plea, "Who'll Sing for Me," will raise chills on a listener's body and bring sinners to their knees. Energizing and mesmerizing, this is bluegrass to the bone and through the bone, as defined by one of the absolute masters of the form.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
Jimmy Martin is bluegrass' proverbial loose cannon, an eccentric and unpredictable rebel working in a genre famous for preserving its conventions, and while he has undoubtedly made as many enemies as friends in the bluegrass community, no one can deny that he has been instrumental in shaping the very heart of the music. From his days as guitarist and lead singer for Bill Monroe in the mid-'50s (when Martin's high tenor pushed Monroe's own tenor into the rarefied mountain atmosphere that came to be known as "that high lonesome sound") through the ever-changing excellence of his Sunny Mountain Boys (J.D. Crowe, Paul Williams, Bill Emerson, and Doyle Lawson are among the bluegrass stars who cut their teeth in the SMB), Martin has made his recalcitrant mark on the music. Don't Cry to Me is a soundtrack of sorts to a feature-length documentary on Martin called King of Bluegrass, and it may well be the single best album in Martin's long career, due in no small part to the inclusion of ten previously unreleased live recordings from different stages of the journey. Opening with a quartet of archival radio performances from the Louisiana Hayride on KWKH circa 1958, including a smooth, perfect version of "Ocean of Diamonds" and a blazing instrumental charge through the folk nugget "John Henry," the disc offers continual support for the notion that bluegrass owes its soul to this man. Martin always favored vocals over instrumental flash, and while the playing on these tracks is often incendiary, it always serves the song, giving each tune an emotional integrity and weight, due in no small part to Martin's control of his soaring, keening, and passionate singing. Martin's version here of the wry "Hit Parade of Love," recorded live in 1960 by Mike Seeger, is sleek, balanced, and perfect, while the Appalachian murder ballad "Poor Ellen Smith," recorded by folklorist Ralph Rinzler, creates a wonderful tension between its modal kinetics (the song always feels like it's about to break loose and fly wildly around the room) and its own chilling story, which demands that things stay reined in out of respect for the dead. The studio take of "Don't Cry to Me" shows how much honky tonk attitude Martin brought to bluegrass, as does a brilliant live take of "You Don't Know My Mind," recorded at the 2000 Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival. This fine disc closes with a brief a cappella fragment of "Time Has Made a Change," recorded in Martin's living room on November 10, 2000. Why Jimmy Martin hasn't been asked to become a permanent member of the Grand Ole Opry is a scandal of sorts (and the defining plot point of the King of Bluegrass documentary), but a good guess might be that knocking the edges off this bluegrass iconoclast in order to make him fit the Opry code of conduct is an impossibility. He's the bad boy of bluegrass, after all, and we're lucky to have him.

Product Details

Release Date:
05/04/2004
Label:
Thrill Jockey
UPC:
0790377014525
catalogNumber:
70145
Rank:
103609

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Jimmy Martin   Primary Artist,Guitar,Vocals
Marty Stuart   Mandolin
J.D. Crowe   Banjo

Technical Credits

Bill Monroe   Composer
Jimmie Rodgers   Composer
Mike Seeger   Engineer
Keith Allison   Composer
Mark Lindsay   Composer
Jimmy Martin   Composer
Ralph Rinzler   Engineer
Robinson   Composer
Alton Delmore   Composer
Paul Williams   Composer
Cliff Carnahan   Composer
Harold Donny   Composer
Harkins Frye   Composer
Billy Cole   Composer
Traditional   Composer
Edria A. Humphrey   Composer
George Goehl   Producer

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