Monday, January 02, 2006

pick yerself a winner

glisten: Bill Monroe

Our first foray into the new year focuses on Bill Monroe, one of the most important voices in bluegrass, a mainstay at the Grand Ole Opry and possibly the greatest mandolinist to ever lay hand to strings. Monroe had an incredibly long and fruitful career; much of his prodigious recording output is still readily available, making this virtuoso an excellent touchstone for anyone curious to learn more or acquire a taste for bluegrass music.

The following tracks hail from Monroe's first sessions as a solo artist on RCA/Victor; previously, he had always played with his brother Charlie as part of The Monroe Brothers, but Charlie and Bill ran afoul of one another around 1938 and split to create their own bands. Bill founded The Bluegrass Boys, one of the longest running and most influential combos in the genre, providing an early home for such luminaries as Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt.

This 1940/1941 incarnation of the band features Clyde Moody on guitar and occasional vox, Tommy Magness on fiddle, Cousin Wilbur Wesbrooks on string bass and Monroe on vox and mandolin.

It should be noted that these cuts, while not exactly atypical of Monroe's general style, sounds to my ears to be a bit more raw than his later work; almost seventy years later, this remains amazingly vital and exciting music. Give 'em a try and then treat yourself to a few more when payday rolls around.

Bill Monroe - Six White Horses
It doesn't take much to hear something out of place on this track; the anachronistically rock'n'roll riff that provides the hook for 'Six White Horses' and "the sixteen coaches long" line would be lifted some fifteen years later to great effect by both Junior Parker and Elvis Presley for 'Mystery Train'.

Bill Monroe - Dog House Blues
What can I say? I'm a sucker for onomatopoeia songs.

Bill Monroe - In the Pines
Modern listeners will likely remember this as a track from the Nirvana Unplugged album, where it's credited as a cover of Leadbelly's 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night'. 'In the Pines' is a lot older than Leadbelly, though; it's a traditional arrangement that dates back to mid-nineteenth century Appalachia. Monroe's version, considered by many to be the definitive rendition, is awesome in its depth and intensity; it puts the 'blues' in bluegrass.

I got these tracks digitized from the original sides so you'll notice some surface noise, something I obviously don't mind... but if you can't afford the heavy coin that finding these on wax would run you, if you'd just like a cleaner dub or if you want to hear more of this very early material from the Don of the Mandolin, you can buy "The Father Of Bluegrass: Early Years 1940-47" from Amazon.
Twelve bucks nets you twelve tracks from the '40/'41 sessions plus a baker's dozen of other indispensibles. You can't beat that price with a stick.

2006 marks the ten year anniversary of Monroe's death; why not put in a good word to the USPS and see that this giant gets the back of his head lavished with mucilage and slapped onto postage?

Listen to a '93 recording of Monroe at the White Springs Florida Folk Festival performing 'Wayfaring Stranger'.
There's plenty of other nice cuts on this freebie disc that merit a DL, including music from Etta Baker and The Stanley Brothers.

Read this brief AMG bio of Monroe.

Uncle Bill's most famous song was likely 'Blue Moon of Kentucky'; you can hear the song, the Presley cover and the Monroe re-remake as part of this NPR story which denotes 'Blue Moon' as one of the one hundred most important musical works of the past century.
While you're on the NPR tip, give a listen to this NPR track about Bill's million dollar mandolin.
And if you ain't equipped to listen to realaudio, may I recommend...)


Those of you who enjoyed my long-ago post of 'The Faggots Want Wine' should stop by Holtzclaw's MySpace page, for 'Hot Love Ball' if for nothing else.

On a similar note, you're also REQUIRED to go watch Travis 'n' Jonathan's take on Grizzly Man:
"This is Lemonberrygingersnap! He's a big bear!"
The fox gag near the end kills me.

120 Years of Electronic Musical Instruments but no electronic harmonica? Must not be fans of Astro Beat Circus, I guess.

K + K Mime are the founders of gospel mime.

Heard the story about Owen the tsunami hippo and Mzee the tortoise?
They're cuuuuuuuuuuute.

Feelin' fourfour lately.

American ingenuity knows no bounds.

So you went and bought yourself a pod JUST before the new videopods hit, eh? It's cool; you can still get some funky frame-by-frame fun at ipodscrubs.

These oddball choose-your-own-adventure quicktime movie is creepier than creepy; more than a touch of Svankmeyer going on.

I've certainly taken a few bad driver's licenses in my time and I just find it cruel to put the screws to celebrities solely for looking and photographing as human.
Even so, c'mon. This is pretty classic.


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