Can't You Hear Me Callin' - Bluegrass: 80 Years of American Music
A well-considered overview of the mainstream bluegrass field, this four-disc, 100-plus-song collection charts the evolution of the music from 1925 through 2002. The earliest track is Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers' stirring 1925 workout on "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues," and from there the set goes on to illustrate how the style has hewed to its fundamentals even as visionaries such as (the amply represented) Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs infused it with new ideas. In the end, bluegrass remains true to its roots, there not being so great a leap from 1925 to Rhonda Vincent's keening 2001 tribute to Monroe, "Is the Grass Any Bluer." Purists may question the inclusion of four Byrds tracks and the Dixie Chicks' affecting "Tortured Tangled Hearts" to the exclusion of the entire progressive bluegrass wing (New Grass Revival, Seldom Scene, Nickel Creek, et al. are not featured). However, a younger guard is represented by way of Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Steve Earle with the Del McCoury Band, and exciting latter-day fusions of Edgar Meyer (with Bela Fleck and Mike Marshall on "Big Country") and violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, teaming with Meyer, Marshall, and Sam Bush on 1996's "BP," which in and of itself advances a forward-looking mind-set in a traditional setting. In between there's plenty of Jim & Jesse, the Stanley Brothers, and the Osborne Brothers, as well as nods to Mark O'Connor, Alison Krauss (including the haunting "So Long, So Wrong"), and the latter-day Ralph Stanley in bringing the concept full circle. There's a lot more to bluegrass history than even this generous collection suggests, but it does a splendid job of telling the story in broad strokes. And a stirring tale it is.
Can't You Hear Me Callin' - Bluegrass: 80 Years of American Music 4 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
This 4-CD box set with 109 songs captures the American bluegrass music tradition. This is quite an undertaking. Consider their objective to cover 80 years of music. Old-timey seeds planted by Gid Tanner and Charlie Poole in the 1920s are included. Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, and Flatt & Scruggs are well-represented with about 20% of the tracks. But so are the Carter Family, Roy Acuff, Carl Story, Arthur Smith, Osborne Brothers, Jim & Jesse, Jimmy Martin, The Byrds, Herb Pedersen, Ricky Skaggs, Blue Ridge Ramblers, Coon Creek Girls, Bailes Brothers, Molly O’Day, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Mac Wiseman, Carl Butler, Louvin Brothers, Joe Maphis, Don Reno, Grandpa Jones, The O’Kanes, Mark O’Connor, Dixie Chicks, and Alison Krauss. What, they’re not all bluegrass! I guess it’s all in how you define the genre. Songs from nearly two dozen record labels is included. A 58-page booklet comes with the CDs, and it has some excellent liner notes by Billy Altman and Ralph Stanley. This music was chosen by Shoreline Community College instructor Tom Moran for his on-line “History of Bluegrass” distance learning class. The anthology compiled by Gregg Geller is broad and expansive, and it’s a major milestone in the promotion of bluegrass music for a large label with the reputation of Columbia/Legacy to support such an endeavor. My hat’s off to them. Of course, every person’s 100 tracks documenting the “history of bluegrass” would be different. And the main question to ask about “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’” is does it adequately cover the main bases? With more than fifty different groups and solo artists sampled, I’d say that it does pretty well, but it certainly would’ve been exponentially enhanced with even 2-3 more CDs in the set. Special rare tracks include some by The Coon Creek Girls (“Pretty Polly”), Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (“On The Banks Of The River,” “Sunny Side Of The Mountain,” “Stoney, Are You Mad At Your Gal”), Carl Story & the Rambling Mountaineers, Don Reno. Three previously unreleased songs include Carl Story’s “Don't You Hear Jerusalem Mourn,” Roy Hall & His Blue Ridge Entertainers’1938 version of “Orange Blossom Special,” and Sara & Maybelle Carter’s “No More Goodbyes” from 1966. This is a fascinating and erudite collection that every bluegrass music lover could study for months. You’re bound to discover something new about the genre that you didn’t know before. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)