BLUEGRASS (1950-1958) is a 4-disc set containing 109 recordings. It includes a 65-page book with detailed discography and personnel listing.
Personnel: Bill Monroe (mandolin); Charlie Cline (guitar, fiddle); James H. Martin, Claude J. Phelps, Thomas Grady Martin, Jimmy Selph, Lester Sandy, Loren Otis Shook, Carter Stanley, Douglas Kershaw, Edd Mayfield, Vernon Crawford Cook (guitar); James Ora Bowers, Rudy Lyle, Sonny Osborne, Jim Smoak, Hubert Davis, Joe Stuart, Don Stover, Joe Drumright, Robert Lee Pennington (banjo); Vassar Clements, Merle Taylor, Bobby Hicks, Thomas Jackson, James Smith, Dale Potter, Gordon Terry, Kenny Baker (fiddle); Owen Bradley (piano, organ, vibraphone); Oscar Sheehan, Joel Price, Ernest Newton, William D. Killen, Bessie Lee Maudlin, Jimmy Elrod, Howard Watts, Culley Holt (bass); Farris Coursey (drums).
Producers: Owen Bradley, Paul Cohen.
Compilation producer: Richard Weize.
Recorded between February 3, 1950 and December 1, 1958. Includes liner notes by Neil V. Rosenberg and Charles K. Wolfe.
The 50's were a benchmark period for Bill Monroe, an era during which he recorded many of the songs on which his legendary stature rests. Monroe's band in the 50's also served as a training ground for future bluegrass legends, including guitarist/singer Jimmy Martin, fiddlers Vassar Clements, Charlie Cline, and Gordon Terry, and banjo players Sonny Osborne and Don Stover. Bear Family Records, a German archival label, has compiled all of Monroe's recordings of this era with their usual care and respect for the material.
Monroe's exacting standards ensure that nearly all the tracks here bear up to repeated listening. Not all of Monroe's 50's work, however, is worth preserving; his failed efforts to incorporate organ into the bluegrass sound, for example, would be better forgotten. For every miscue on this four-disc set, however, there are a dozen masterpieces like "Walking In Jerusalem," "Footprints in the Snow," "Uncle Pen," and "Wayfaring Stranger." Meticulous mastering and annotation round out a stellar package that belongs in the collection of any serious bluegrass fan.