The Monroe Brothers

Monroe Brothers, Vol. 1: What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul

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This is the first of a four-volume set covering the entirety of the 60 sides the duo recorded for RCA/Bluebird. It would have been nice if dates, even estimated ones, were included with the tracks in the liner notes, but it can be gathered that the 15 cuts represent the first chronological fourth of the Monroe Brothers' RCA/Bluebird material. Again it's not certain from Charles Wolfe's liners (which are, it should be added, in the main excellent), but most or all of them date from 1936. There was no run up the ramp to a level of musical accomplishment when the brothers started recording. Right from the start, they were tight instrumentalists and harmonizing vocalists. The guitar (Charlie Monroe) and mandolin (Bill Monroe) blended in a way that foreshadowed, indeed virtually was, bluegrass on the rapid "My Long Journey Home" and "Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy," the latter getting heavy exposure in 2000 via its inclusion on Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4. Much of the material on this disc was gospel in origin; they were also able interpreters of both traditional folk songs and contemporary compositions (some of which were their own). Although this was mastered from old 78s, the sound is pretty good, certainly about as good as it's going to get via the remastering process.

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