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Various Artists

Can't You Hear Me Callin' - Bluegrass: 80 Years of American Music

Format: CD   Release Date: 09/28/2004
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The title pretty much says it on this deluxe four-disc package from Sony's Legacy imprint. Here on four discs are 109 performances that cover the spectrum of American bluegrass, beginning with its pre-birth roots in Appalachian country string band music via the recordings of Gid Tanner, Charlie Poole the Blue Ridge Ramblers, and the Carters in the mid-'30s. The story really takes off with the Monroe Brothers and their classic "What Would You Give in Exchange (For Your Soul)?" in 1936, the same year that Roy Acuff issued his first hit, "The Great Speckled Bird." Ralph and Carter Stanley, the Bailes Brothers, and Molly O'Day enter the root stream within a few years, and the tree blossoms at the dawn of World War II, flowering with Flatt Scruggs' "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" in 1949. These are all here, of course, as are cuts by Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, the Osborne Brothers, Roy Hall, Grandpa Jones, Jim Jesse, Bill Mary Reid, the Webster Brothers, and many others from these early decades. Where the set really takes its chances is in including the contributions made to rock and modern country and bluegrass music through offerings from the Byrds, Ricky Skaggs, Eric Weissberg, the Dixie Chicks, the O'Kanes, Rhonda Vincent, Herb Pedersen, and many others. What it makes for is a provocative look at the music as it evolved not only musically, but culturally and socially, as it crossed from the Deep South into the East and West Coasts and moved north. Not everyone will agree with the track choices, of course, and the tiresome purists will no doubt find the last CD difficult to handle given their attitudes of preservation at any cost -- including premature death -- but the rest of us can be delighted, beguiled, amused, and confronted by this primitive, raw original American underground music as it entered the mainstream of our society. The set includes a fantastic historical essay by former ~Creem editor Billy Altman, and a fine introduction by Dr. Ralph Stanley. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

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