Various Artists

True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe

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The 17 newly-recorded songs on this album comprise a loving tribute to the man generally considered to have invented bluegrass music, and the album was timed well, coming out just shortly before Monroe's death in 1996 at the age of 85. The songs are mostly pretty predictable. The program leads off with the Nashville Bluegrass Band's rendition of "Molly and Tenbrooks" (on which Alan O'Bryant does a pretty fair Monroe impression), and proceeds through a hair-raising rendition of "I'm on My Way Back to the Old Home" by the Del McCoury Band. Other classics by various lineups follow: Vassar Clements and Richard Greene team up for a bracing run-through of the instrumental "Scotland"; Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick do great job on the title track; and Tim and Mollie O'Brien give "Sitting Alone in the Moonlight" a suitably haunting performance. Peter Rowan may be overrated as a singer, but as a former Blue Grass Boy and a tireless champion of Monroe's work, he has certainly earned the right to sing "Travelin' This Lonesome Road" and "Letter From My Darlin'." Highly recommended.

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