Live from Mountain Stageby Bill Monroe
No moment of the birth of bluegrass goes unremembered in the dusty vocal stylings of the great Kentuckian Bill Monroe. Furthermore, no speedier, crystalline mandolin gets strummed better here, there, or anywhere. Monroe's the real deal, as they say in all parts of Kentucky and far beyond, and his full-throttle performance in the pristine hills of Charleston, WV reiterates this musical fact. Good bluegrass is really about bluegrass and the love of the form, including the landscape it's rooted in, and there's a poignancy even in the sense of place where the album was recorded in 1989. Some of the most crackling cuts -- "Southern Flavor," "Northern White Clouds," and the banjo-riffing "Sugar Loaf Mountain" -- sound even zestier than usual at he hallowed Mountain Stage venue, where there was plenty of room on stage to include a barbershop-style quartet, a walloping bass player, fiddlers, pedal steel guitars and at lest one full-sized harp. Monroe naturally performs his signature tune, the 1946 state song, "Blue Moon of Kentucky," although his vocals at this late date in his career -- he's over 80 years old -- are forgivably more than a tad off-key. Monroe was widely considered not only a maverick bluegrass musician and wholly original songwriter, he was a quintessential showman as well, and this heartwarming show reiterates that. The recording, a board tape originally heard on the syndicated Live from Mountain Stage radio program, is crisp as a fresh leaf and expertly mastered. A genuine keeper and terrific memento of a show most of us wish we hadn't missed.
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