Sugar Hill Records, Inc.
PO Box 55300
Durham, NC 27717-5300
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Allen Price
It began as a tribute. Release was set for October, with a special presentation to Mr. Monroe, whose health had been failing. But before the date came, Bill Monroe left us. What began as a tribute became much more.
Six former Bluegrass Boys and an eye-popping list of prominent bluegrass masters contributed to True Life Blues. They include Sam Bush, Vassar Clements, Mike Compton, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Pat Enright, Greg Garing, Richard Greene, David Grier, David Grisman, John Hartford, Bobby Hicks, Kathy Kallick, Laurie Lewis, Mike Marshall, Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury, Jim Nunally, Scott Nygaard, Mollie O'Brien, Tim O'Brien, Alan O'Bryant, Herb Pedersen, Todd Phillips, John Reischman, Peter Rowan, Craig Smith, Chris Thile, Tony Trischka and Roland White.
Todd Phillips produced the project and provided a collection of tunes which emphasize Monroe's skills as a writer. Ballads like Traveling Down This Lonesome Road, Highway of Sorrow, and Sitting Alone In The Moonlight can be found along with fast paced songs including Molly and Tenbrooks, and Heavy Traffic Ahead.
Monroe's hard driving instrumentals are also featured with tunes such as Rawhide, and Big Mon. My favorite selections:
Big Mon: Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush duet on dobro and mandolin, each displaying his skill and style.
Can't You Hear Me Calling: Del McCoury sings the lead and Craig Smith picks a mean banjo. You can't listen to this and not find yourself unexpectedly singing high harmony on the chorus.
Travelin' This Lonesome Road: Rowan, Grisman, Clements, Pedersen and Phillips. Pedersen shows why he is a great banjo player, and Rowan's lead vocal puts the listener right out on That Lonesome Road.
Old Ebenezer Scrooge: David Grier and Todd Phillips on guitar and bass respectively, with an instrumental duet that will stop you dead in your tracks.
Forty years from now, we'll still be playing this album. It shows not only Monroe's legacy of music, but his true musical legacy: those he inspired and whose lives he changed forever. Here's to Mr. Monroe, and the music he brought us.
Edited by Kerry Dexter