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For all the progressive tendencies of contemporary bluegrass, which at its fringes sees virtuoso musicians take on expansive improvisations that resemble breakneck jazz, bluegrass has always been a music based on the songs and traditions of the old mountain string bands, albeit boosted and given more sonic range by electricity, amps, and microphones, the very thing that allowed it to be born into the modern world. But bluegrass quite likely never would have been anything more than the old string bands on steroids were it not for Bill Monroe, who almost single-handedly gave the new genre its shape, form, and dozens of its key songs. Several tribute albums and Monroe collections appeared in 2011, the 100th anniversary of Monroe's birth, but this one from Tony Rice, one of Monroe's best interpreters, is perhaps the most memorable and moving. Rice, who has had his own impressive career in bluegrass, lost his singing voice (and what an amazing and expressive voice he had!) in the early '90s due to dysphonia, so this isn't exactly a new album, but draws vocal and instrumental versions of Monroe songs that Rice recorded for his various Rounder albums over the years, so technically this is a compilation. But it feels like more than that, maybe because Rice brings his own take to these songs, reimagining them as only he can, and taken together, his versions of Monroe classics like "I'm on My Way Back to the Old Home," "Mule Skinner Blues," "Molly and Tenbrooks," and "You're Drifting Away," among others, fall together in a coherent arc, until what emerges is both a tribute to Monroe and a testament to Rice's own considerable contributions to bluegrass music. It's a perfect fit, really.
|Label:||Rounder / Umgd|