About this Recording
76034-2 - UNITED STATES Little Grasscals (The): Bluegrass
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Bluegrass is an original American art form, as freshly minted in North America as jazz, comic books, or baseball. Although bluegrass traces its oldest roots to the ancient ballads and the fiddle tunes of the British Isles, it is truly a twentieth-century phenomenon — a musical hybrid that combines not only the old-time string band music that evolved in America from Anglo-Celtic airs but also the blues and gospel music of African-Americans. Though it began in America, today it is a music known and loved across the globe.

Like the old-time string band music from which it sprang, bluegrass music is customarily played on acoustic stringed instruments: fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, resonator guitar, and string bass. Unlike traditional string band music, however, bluegrass incorporates — indeed, calls for — freewheeling solo improvisation from the instruments, particularly the fiddle, banjo, and mandolin. Bluegrass is often compared to jazz for this embrace of spontaneous improvisation. In addition, bluegrass is frequently played at rapid tempos, and its vocals are generally pitched in the singers’ highest ranges. These extremes of performance lend bluegrass its powerful feelings of intensity and exuberance that so captivate listeners.

Bluegrass takes its name from the band that originated the style: The Blue Grass Boys, the band of Bill Monroe (1911-1996), who is rightfully known as the Father of Bluegrass. Monroe founded his band in 1938, naming it in a nod to his home state of Kentucky (the Blue Grass State). An intensely creative and independent spirit, Monroe had it in mind from the beginning to forge a distinctive brand of string band music that would incorporate the breakneck tempos of his fierce mandolin playing and the intensity of his high tenor vocals.

But Monroe was not the sole creator of the bluegrass sound. For that we have at least three generations of musicians to thank. A few in particular stand out. Earl Scruggs (b. 1924) brought the lightning-fast, three-fingered style of single-note banjo picking to bluegrass in the mid 1940s when he joined the Blue Grass Boys. In partnership with another former Blue Grass Boy, singer-guitarist Lester Flatt (1914-1979), Earl Scruggs made his banjo style synonymous with bluegrass. Ralph Stanley (b. 1927) and his brother Carter (1925-1966) brought an emphasis on old-time mountain songs and harmonies to bluegrass. These and countless other musicians have come together over the past six decades or so to share their influences and traditions and build upon the work of bluegrass’s greats, keeping the faith with tradition while forging ahead to make new discoveries and fresh sounds.

On this CD you’ll hear some of Nashville’s finest bluegrass pickers of the newer generation: ace mandolin player Mike Compton; hot fiddlers Shad Cobb and Jason Carter; Scruggs disciple Dave Talbot on banjo; traditional bluegrass vocal stylists Terry Eldredge, Jamie Johnson, Mike Armistead and father Lester Armistead; resonator guitar virtuoso Rob Ickes; sure and steady string bassists Mike Bub and Terry Smith; and Booie Beach contributing the aggressive and exciting guitar runs. Here they dig into some of the music’s great traditional numbers and in the best bluegrass style find new nuggets of gold.

Several of these tunes were recorded in the traditional bluegrass performance style. That is to say they were recorded live with three microphones and with the musicians "mixing" the music as it happened by stepping up to the microphone for their solos. It’s a style of recording that has almost disappeared in country and pop, but one that remains at the heart of bluegrass’s vital traditions. It reflects the unvarnished honesty and spontaneity that continues to draw new fans and pickers to bluegrass year after year. What began as a fierce gleam in Bill Monroe’s eye has grown into an acoustic treasure for America and all the world to enjoy. Try some.

Paul Kingsbury


dave talbot (dt) - banjo, baritone vocal

mike compton (mc) - mandolin, lead, baritone vocal

terry eldredge (te) - rhythm guitar, ass noises, lead, tenor vocal

shad cobb (sc) - fiddle

terry smith (ts) - string bass, baritone vocal

jamie johnson (jj) - lead, tenor vocal

mike bub (mb) - string bass

jason carter (jc) - fiddle

rob ickes (ri) - resonator guitar

booie beach (bb) - lead guitar

mike armistead (ma) - bones, lead vocal

lester armistead (la) - tenor vocal

produced by patrick isbey

mastered by ronnie thomas at mastermix

engineered and mixed by mark howard

2nd engineer j.p. crabtree

recorded april 23, 24, and 25, 2002, at Signal Path,

nashville, tennessee, www.signalpathsound.com.

checkout the world famous station inn at www.stationinn.com

and find out about the documentary (sidoc@hotmail.com).

special thanks to dolores canavan and jim sturgeon at naxos world,

the amazing sally green, nate shuppert, and courtney kalbfeld.


instrument key: B=banjo, M=mandolin, RG=rhythm guitar, SB=string bass,

F=fiddle, RSG=resonator guitar, LG=lead guitar, BNS=bones, LV=lead vocal, BV=baritone vocal, TV=tenor vocal

nine pound hammer

B-dt; M-mc; RG, LV-te; F-jc; SB-mb; RSG-ri

lee highway blues

B-dt; M-mc; RG-te; F-jc; SB-mb; RSG-ri

gospel plow

B-dt; M, LV, BV-mc; RG-te; F-jc; SB-mb; RSG-ri; TV-jj

come all ye fair and tender ladies

B, BV-dt; M-mc; RG, LV-te; F-jc; SB-mb; RSG-ri; TV-jj

cumberland gap

B-dt; F-sc

little maggie

B-dt; M-mc; RG, LV-te; F-sc; SB-ts; LG-bb

lonesome reuben

B-dt; M-mc; RG-te; F-jc; SB-mb; RSG-ri

i am the man, thomas

B-dt; M, BV-mc; RG, TV-te; F-sc; SB-ts; LG-bb; LV-jj

dusty miller

B-dt; M-mc; RG-te; F-sc; SB-ts

whoa mule whoa

B-dt; M-mc; RG, ass noises-te; F-sc; SB-ts; LV, BNS-ma; TV-la

home sweet home

B-dt; M-mc; F-sc; SB-ts; LG-bb

john henry

B-dt; M-mc; RG-te; F-sc; SB-ts; LG-bb

never grow old

B-dt; M-mc; RG, LV chorus-te; F-sc; SB, BV-ts; LG-bb; LV, TV chorus-jj

soldier’s joy

B-dt; M-mc; RG-te; F-sc; SB-ts; LG-bb

darlin’ corey

B-dt; M-mc; RG, LV-te; F-sc; SB-ts; LG-bb; TV-jj

tennessee wagoner

B-dt; M-mc; F-sc; SB-ts; LG-bb

more pretty girls than one

B-dt; M-mc; RG-te; F-sc; SB-ts; LV-ma; TV-la

sweet sunny south

B-dt; F-sc

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