The Rough Guide to Bluegrass

Various Artists

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The Rough Guide to Bluegrass Review

by Alex Henderson

When fiddle-playing Scottish and Irish immigrants brought their jigs, reels, and airs with them to the U.S., the Celtic music that they played eventually evolved into what we now know as bluegrass and country. Over the years, some artists have blurred the lines between bluegrass and country; that frequently happens on The Rough Guide to Bluegrass. This compilation isn't for bluegrass purists -- World Music Network takes an eclectic approach to the subject, and some of the tunes are closer to old-time country than bluegrass. But all of the selections have some type of Appalachian influence, which is the common denominator between the artists who provide hardcore bluegrass (Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys, Red Allen & the Kentuckians, Emerson & Waldron, the McCoury Brothers) and the artists who favor more of an old-time country approach (Hazel Dickens, the Johnson Mountain Boys). The CD even gets into country-pop; Claire Lynch's "Sweetheart Darlin' of Mine," for example, has a strong Dolly Parton influence, but minus the slick production values of modern Nashville. Meanwhile, banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck combines jazz and bluegrass on "Crossfire." Fusing jazz and hillbilly music isn't a new idea -- back in the 1930s, Bob Wills and his colleagues embraced a hillbilly/jazz hybrid that came to be known as Western swing. But Fleck is an innovator who, on some of his other recordings, has brought rock and funk as well as bluegrass to his jazz foundation. This compilation is hardly the last word on bluegrass -- how could it be without anything by the great Bill Monroe? But it does take an interesting and highly enjoyable look at some of the Appalachian and Appalachian-influenced sounds of recent decades.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Larry Sparks 03:07 Amazon
2 Alison Krauss 03:17 Amazon
3 The Bluegrass Album Band 03:53 Amazon
4 The Country Gentlemen 02:16 Amazon
5 Hazel Dickens 04:13 Amazon
6 Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys 02:36 Amazon
7 Rhonda Vincent 03:02 Amazon
Red Allen 02:41 Amazon
9 The Johnson Mountain Boys 03:25 Amazon
10 Emerson & Waldron 02:07 Amazon
11 Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys / Tom T. Hall 02:55 Amazon
12 Longview 02:30 Amazon
13 J.D. Crowe & the New South 03:29 Amazon
14 Claire Lynch 03:04 Amazon
15 Tony Rice 02:58 Amazon
16 Béla Fleck 03:25 Amazon
17 Hazel Dickens 02:42 Amazon
18 The McCoury Brothers 02:27 Amazon
19 IIIrd Tyme Out 03:08 Amazon
20 Lynn Morris 04:13 Amazon
21 Dry Branch Fire Squad 02:14 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick