Bluegrass at the Roots: 1961 is split half-and-half between the Lilly Brothers dueting in the traditional bluegrass "brother" style of the Monroe Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys; and a larger band session that brings in the phenomenal Don Stover on banjo, as well as band regular Herb Hooven on fiddle and bass, with Mike Seeger contributing occasional bass and detailed liner notes. The material focuses totally on the traditional side of things and might be too somber in general tone for some listeners. Although the Lilly Brothers recorded modern pieces and liked to mix the repertoire up, it must be said that they really sink their teeth into this chance to focus on old-timey music exclusively. The vocals from brothers Everett Allen and Bea Lilly are piercing, and as clean as a West Virginia mountain stream might have been before the mines were opened. Instrumentally, things only really jump when Stover steps in and drives ten-penny nails through the front of his banjo head. The recording quality is a trifle mousy sounding; it was supposedly done with an Ampex machine and Electrovoice microphones, so it must have happened in the mastering.
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AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne