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Meet the author


Bluegrass is a relatively recent country music form that was more or less invented by Bill Monroe and his band, the Blue Grass Boys, in the late 1940s. It's currently undergoing a bit of an upswing in popularity due in part to the recent release of a movie called O Brother, Where Art Thou, which features Ralph Stanley and a bunch of contemporary bluegrass musicians.

Cover-Jimmy Martin-King of Bluegrass

Jimmy Martin
The King of Bluegrass

Jimmy Martin got his start as lead singer with Bill Monroe's band. These are the cream of his Decca sides in the late '50s and '60s. These sides are the definition of a tight bluegrass band, and no one has ever got the "high lonesome sound" in his lead vocals better than Jimmy Martin.

Recommended Reading: Martin's a bit of a loon, too. For an alternately hilarious and sad look at the "King of Bluegrass," get Top Piazza's book True Adventures with the King of Bluegrass, an expansion of his earlier article in Oxford American Magazine's Summer 1997 Southern Music special issue.

Cover-Bill Monroe-Country Music Hall of Fame

Bill Monroe
Country Music Hall of Fame

Here's the deal. No single-disk collection could possibly do justice to the depth of Bill Monroe's musical vision. Monroe was a giant musical figure, and his influence is still felt in many current forms of popular music. This is a low-cost introduction to one facet of Monroe's music.

Further Listening: Take it on faith that if you love traditional bluegrass, rockabilly, or really American music in general you'll need the 4-CD box set The Music of Bill Monroe.

Recommended Reading: Richard Smith's Can't You Hear Me Calling is a quite interesting bio of Monroe that sheds some light on the source of the music.

Cover-The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers

The Stanley Brothers
Complete Columbia Recordings

This one makes the desert island list, and Angel Band: The Mercury Years is right behind it. Run, don't walk, to the store to buy it. Find out why Bob Dylan called his recent guest appearance on a Ralph Stanley album "the highlight of my career." These were not cliches when Brother Carter wrote them. An absolute must-have for anyone who loves American music.

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