What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul?
The Monroe Brothers82161-1073-2
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
In 1936, Bill and Charlie Monroe would set out on a path that many had traveled but few had done with such ingenuity. Bill Monroe, being only twenty-five years old at the time, couldn't have known that in ten short years he'd be leading one of the hottest bands in the United States and was soon to be heralded as the father of a new genre of music. What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul? is the first of a scheduled four volumes set to cover all sixty sides the duo recorded for RCA/Bluebird in those formative years. |
No doubt these recordings have about as much historic impact as anything from the same time period, as you can actually hear the birth of bluegrass in Bill Monroe's breakneck mandolin playing and patented "high lonesome" harmonies. Still, there is no reason to imply these tracks are simply dusty museum relics, as the material here is truly first-rate, old time gospel music. This particular disc finds the Monroe Brothers still making their living as a regional gospel act, with the recordings here launching them into greater renown and impressive records sales throughout the South.
In particular, the old time spiritual What Would You Give In Exchange, and the waltz time ballad What Is Home Without Love would be massive hits throughout the Carolinas and beyond. My Long Journey Home and Nine Pound Hammer Is Too Heavy would feature the revelatory mandolin attacks that would soon come to define Monroe and the music he was to create. The charging cover of Jimmie Rodger's In My Dear Old Southern Home and the Carter Family's On Some Foggy Mountain Top are also proto-bluegrass at its best. Bluegrass bands would pay tribute to the Monroe Brothers on tracks like My Long Journey Home, Lonesome Valley and Watermelon Hangin' on that Vine, and many of the fifteen tracks here would carry over into Bill Monroe's solo days as well.
As we know, all good things come to an end, and Bill and Charlie Monroe would split a few years after these recordings were made. But, as we also know, the story has a particularly good ending, with Bill going on to become one of the few musicians who can be clearly referred to as the father of a whole style of music. For those seeking proof as to bluegrass' paternity, What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul should provide ample evidence.