Posts Tagged ‘alison krauss


The Essential Bill Monroe 2-Disc Set (1945-1949)

Recently on a canoe / camping trip to The Adirondacks in Upstate New York my father asked me for some music that would inspire him during the drive though the Eastern High Peaks Region.  Instantly I thought of Bill Monroe, if you are not familiar with this bluegrass icon you should be, this is vintage bluegrass at its best.

I picked up this box set a few years ago on a lark since I wanted to add some dimension and variety to my music collection.  I had been familiar on a superficial level with Bill Munroe and Earl Scruggs (a protege of Monroe) and liked what  I had heard, normally the only time I listened was on my local college radio station (WRPI). 

I had picked up the two-disc set of Allison Krauss and Union Station Live and was really intrigued by bluegrass and modern country. If you are not famliar with Krauss’ live album it is one of the best live albums I’ve heard, incredible.  I’ve never been one to feel compelled to pick up a Tanya Tucker, Merle Haggard, or Willie Nelson album; that type of Country/Western music never really has appealed to me.  However, vintage Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Sr. always has, so I figured that why not Bill Monroe .  Luckily my bet paid off and this 2-disc set is worth every penny as an introduction to the roots of bluegrass.

Although Monroe had many hits over his 40+ year career, one of the highlights of his music was his hit “Blue Moon of Kentucky“; this song is featured on this collection; one can plainly see why this song was so appealing, but there are 39 other songs as equally as impressive.  The biggest gripe however about this box set is that a majority of the songs are not the actual studio hits, many are alternate versions or unreleased studio tracks of hits.  There is a companion cd that Columbia released “Bill Monroe: 16 Gems”, this is more of a “best of” album than anything else, good yes, but for a purist I feel that the box set is far more a better investment.

The overall sound quality is good but not incredible, most of the tracks were recorded in the early to mid-1940’s so you can understand why it may sound “boxy” at times.  You can get a used box set for about $12.00 on Amazon.  Do yourself a favor if you are a bluegrass fan, or looking for an inspirational album to set the mood as you head on your epic camping trip.

The Essential Bill Monroe (1945-1949) 2-disc set gets 4.0 out of 5.


Mountain Jam VI – 2010 Line Up

Ah yes, as the spring birds make their voices heard and the flowers begin to peek out from their long winters nap it’s time once again for the summer festival announcements and this year seems off to a very impressive  start. 

I am a self-admitted jam band fan since high school loving any project involving Warren Haynes and/or Dickey Betts; so I’m sure that the 6th Annual Mountain Jam Festival will be well worth the trip. 
This year’s line up is very impressive and also focuses around the 70th birthday of Levon Helm has been contributing the music scene.  Helm will be joined by a who’s-who of musicians ranging from Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Ray LaMontange (If don’t know who this guy is you need to, very talented!), Steve Earle, and many others.

On other stages or at other times during the festival the line up is equally as impressive and I’m pleasantly surprised at the assortment and variety of artists appearing.

Alison Krauss & Union Station
Les Claypool (Primus, Oysterhead)
Dave Mason
Toots & The Maytals
The Drive-by Truckers
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Yonder Mountain String Band

These are just some of the bands performing that weekend, there are too many bands to list so check the line up link on the main page.  The Mountain Jam website has a nice free player that lets you listen to an assortment of the artists performing, so if you’re not familiar them initially you can get a better idea of what to expect.  The headling act is Warren Haynes’ Government Mule.  I saw Government Mule and Black Crowes about 10 years ago at The Orpheum Theater in Boston, personally I was not impressed but I would imagine that over 10 years they’ve developed their sound. 

Yes, the pricetag in this economy for the plain old one-day ticket is a costly $79.00; tough if you married with kids like me, but perhaps worth the cost for a full day of music and sunshine (if the weather cooperates, always a risk with outside festivals!).  If you are in the New York City area or from Upstate New York where HiFi Central is located, Hunter Mountain (where the Mountain Jam is held) is a very easy drive up or down I-87  and is nestled in among the sleepy Catskills Mountains. 
I am still hoping that one year a reunion of The Hatters (an Allman Brothers-esque band that faded away in the mid-90’s) might happen at Mountain Jam, but I’m not holding my breath.

If you would like more information about this fun summertime festival check it out by clicking here: Mountain Jam VI


Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (2007)

Per Amazon’s website the pairing of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss was like  putting together “the duo of King Kong and Bambi”; and they are right. Plant and Krauss are the last two I would have thought would collaborate.  To my surprise and delight, after listening to this album I would agree that they are the perfect pairing. 

As one would realize, gone are the days of the wild Robert Plant who’s antics included trashing rooms and riding motorcycles down the hallways of the Chateau Marmont Hotel.  This album seems to take its rightful place and home to todays more mellow Plant.  After Zeppelin it can be seen how Plant decided pursue more mellow outlets than he originally had been identified with, this can be seen with his 80’s project The Honey Drippers.   It has been known that Plant has an insatiable appetite for world music and a drive to explore different avenues and styles for his future albums.  If this album was to be Plants last (which it is not I’m sure) it would be the perfect ending to a musical life well lived.  However, I do not think we have heard the last from him.

Alison Krauss is a household name in the bluegrass world, she is one of the most sought after musicians in Nashville and often is featured as a guest on many bluegrass and contemporary country albums.  Although I’m not the biggest fan of country, I do appreciate bluegrass (Ricky Skaggs, Bill Monroe among my favorites), I must admit that I am a big fan of Alison Krauss and her band Union Station.  I highly recommend her live 2-disc album if you get a chance to grab it, simply incredible.  I’ve converted several of my friends that were “anti-country/ anti-bluegrass” with that album.

Raising Sand is for playing on rainy days, background music when you are having people over for dinner, long car rides out to Buffalo, or cutting your cats nails.  It’s not for getting in the car and cranking it up really loud to relive your Zeppelin glory days.  Raising Sand is a sincere, well produced, and personal album that reflects the gifts of two excellent vocalists, two who compliment each other on every song.

The majority of songs on this album are soft and smoky, cleary a reflection of what producer T Bone Burnett can create with right combination of artists.  Burnett has produced albums for bands such as Counting Crows, K.D. Lang, and The Wallflowers.

Highlights of this album are cleary the opening song Rich Woman (nice use of harmonies and reverb together),songs Killing The Blues & Please Read The Letter;  both created the most noteriety for  much of this album.  Lastly,  Fortune Teller is a fun romp (possibly the most upbeat song on the album) full of reverb, raw acoustic bass, and Plant’s strong, emotional vocals.  Let Your Loss be your Lesson is one my favorites

Raising Sand gets 4 out of 5 in my humble mellow music opinion.

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