Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Music of Bill Monroe - Part 5 (1980-94)

Bill Monroe - Part 5

1) Introductions by President Jimmy Carter & Bill Monroe - the White House/Washington DC – 8/7/80
Georgia Rose - the White House/Washington DC – 8/7/80

Rawhide - the White House/Washington DC – 8/7/80

My Last Days on Earth – Smithsonian Institute/Washington, DC – 2/6/82

Baltimore BreakdownArtscape/Baltimore, MD – 7/21/85

Wolf Trap BluesArtscape/Baltimore, MD – 7/21/85

Brown County Jamboree Barn – Berkshire Mountain Festival/Duanesburg, PA – 7/26/85

One Finger Blues – Great American Music Hall/San Francisco, CA – 8/21/89

Come Hither to Go Yonder – the Brickhouse/State College, PA – 2/2/90

Goodbye Old Pal – Jekyll Island, GA – 12/29/90

Sugarloaf Mountain – Jekyll Island, GA – 12/29/90

Dark as the Night, Blue as the Day – Jekyll Island, GA – 12/29/90

I’m On My Way Back to the Old Home – Jekyll Island, GA – 12/29/90

Northern White Clouds – Ziggy’s/Winston-Salem, NC – 12/31/93

Big Mon – Ziggy’s/Winston-Salem, NC – 12/31/93

In the Pines – Cherokee Bluegrass Festival/Cherokee, NC – 8/26/94

Southern Flavor - Cherokee Bluegrass Festival/Cherokee, NC – 8/26/94

You’re Causing Me Trouble – Cherokee Bluegrass Festival/Cherokee, NC – 8/26/94

Tombstone Junction – Fallgrass @ the Dunfey Hotel/San Mateo, CA – 11/12/94

Wayfaring Stranger – Fallgrass @ the Dunfey Hotel/San Mateo, CA – 11/12/94

I’d Love to Be Over Yonder – Jekyll Island, GA – 12/31/94

Bill Monroe - V5

This installment of our look at the music of Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys swims around in the later world he created, a world where bluegrass had become a respectable art form and not just an out-of-date novelty of country music no longer prominent on the Country Charts, which sadly had become fact by the late 50's. The Great Folk Revival/Scare of the 60's helped re-establish Bill as the father figure within the sport and helped gain him a new, younger audience that would stick with him long after the healthy glow of the folk boom wore off. But it wasn't until the 80's when Bill gained the recognition and kudos he deserved, his legacy clearly present while playing for President Carter at the White House, the pride obvious in his speech. It was a different world than that when he first formed the Bluegrass Boys in the 40's and after some hard work and re-adjustment he had finally found his place in it.

Most of the songs written during this time were instrumentals, gems such as Jerusalem Ridge, Northern White Clouds and Southern Flavor all as distinct and picturesque as anything he'd ever written with lyrics, maybe more so...the prospect of the great beyond was obviously weighing heavy on his creative process and he was getting much more experimental with mandolin tunings, sometimes to ominous effects; just listen to My Last Days on Earth which is also the name of the box set released by the marvelous Bear Family Records that chronicles this same period in his career that we are today but with the official releases as well as some radio stuff. Actually Bear Family Records has done this with all points in Monroe's career, as well as other important country/roots artists and is the gold standard in box set collections. My Last Days on Earth is an ominous instrumental, not just flirting with the great beyond or questioning it but embracing it, using it as his muse, which was evident in this era. I'd Love to Be Over Yonder, Wayfaring Stranger, Tombstone Junction, I'm On My Way Back to the Old Home, Goodbye Old Pal, Come Hither to Go Yonder, My Last Days on Earth are just a sampling of the titles referring to looming darkness and the great hereafter, and what I think made his music at this time even more substantial and real, thus effective. It came from a wholly personal perspective and so set this period apart from the others.

Bill Monroe passed on September 9th, 1996 and left behind a substantial catalog of material, we have only scratched the surface here so far. If you're interested in listening to a decent cross-section of material from all points in Bill's illustrious career, the Music of Bill Monroe is a great.  The Bear Family series can pinpoint different eras, separating his career into 4 parts with a comprehensive book to accompany, and the Columbia Box serves up his early career with the Bluegrass Boys ably. There's also a great book about Bill's recording sessions called The Music of Bill Monroe (Music in American Life) by Neil Rosenberg and Charles K. Wolfe as well as a plethora of books written about or by various Bluegrass Boys.

Additional Links:
-Bill Monroe's 100th Birthday celebration-

Here's a link to an alternative version of Wayfaring Stranger, a free download provided by the Florida Folklife Program.

Recorded: 29 May 1993 by the Florida Folklife Program 1993/Florida Folk Festival (Old Marble Stage), White Springs, Florida (S 1576, tape D93-25)

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