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Bill Monroe

True Life Blues – 1996 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Bill Monroe

This tribute to the father of bluegrass music was already in the finalproduction stage when Bill Monroe passed away in early September, so it becomes the first of what are sure to be many all-star celebrations of Big Mon's legacy.

Produced by bassist Todd Phillips, the album follows a current trend by creating one-time combinations of some of the top names in bluegrass.

The material concentrates on Monroe's early songwriting, with such familiar tunes as Molly and Tenbrooks, "I'm On My Way Back To The Old Home" and "Little Cabin Home on the Hill" getting creative and sometimes inspired readings from the likes of Tim O'Brien, Del McCoury, Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick, members of the Nashville Bluegrass Band and Peter Rowan.

Sugar Hill artists, who make up most (but not all) of the performers here, often have a smoother, less hard-edged approach to bluegrass than many of their contemporaries, and this project is no exception. For those looking for a more contemporary, less angular sound than Mr. Monroe's often forbidding recordings, the loving homage contained in True Life Blues will serve well.