Jimmy Martin

The King of Bluegrass [Audium]

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Since this is a bit more extensive than the Rounder compilation You Don't Know My Mind (1956-1966), with four more songs and a greater chronological breadth, it probably assumes the position of first-choice Martin anthology. The 18 songs are all drawn from his 1956-1970 Decca catalog, including his biggest hit, "Rock Hearts." The bluegrass giant explores various nuances of the form in this material, capable of both fairly witty plays on words ("Hit Parade of Love"), odes to the heartland ("Tennessee"), and a George Jones cover ("Milwaukee Here I Come"). The harmonies and arrangements are excellent throughout, with just a touch of country-pop giving much of the material greater crossover accessibility than much bluegrass has. At the same time, Martin's vocals retain an engaging brashness that steers his music clear of over-polish, while his use of snare drums, though it might pass unnoticed by many listeners, was considered radical by bluegrass purists.

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