Personnel: Kenny Baker (fiddle); Joe Stuart (guitar); Robert Black , Vic Jordan, Bob Black (banjo); Bill Monroe (mandolin).
Liner Note Author: Ranger Doug Green.
Recording information: 03/29/1976/03/30/1976.
Photographer: Jim McGuire .
Is this the best bluegrass album ever made? No matter what choice might be made in this regard, it would surely inflame the passions of some picker who wouldn't agree. Nonetheless, consider some of the circumstances. The maestro Kenny Baker is one of the most straightforward, no-nonsense, clean and clear-cut players of bluegrass and old-time music. He has never been the slightest bit interested in any gimmicks or new trends, and in fact looks like he would be at a loss at what to do with hands were he not brandishing a fiddle. He always puts together fantastic bands, and in this case the musicians were paying tribute to one of the all-time fathers of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. Anytime such a strong bearer of tradition is being saluted, one winds up with strongly felt, convincing playing. And then what happened...Monroe himself happened to come by the studio, was asked to play "a bit" by Baker, and wound up playing on the entire album. So, this is Kenny Baker plays Bill Monroe, with Bill Monroe, and it doesn't get much better than that. An effort was made to avoid warhorses and overly familiar material. This is a dozen (no, not 13; the label missed the opportunity to give listeners a Baker's dozen!) of Monroe's classic bluegrass constructions, although they come across more like freshly baked biscuits. Is that steam coming out of the speaker box? ~ Eugene Chadbourne