Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Bluegrass/country weekend

In his lifetime, Johnny Cash (26 Feb 1932 – 12 Sep 2003) was one of the most prolific recording music artistes of all time. During his lengthy career that spanned from 1954 to 2003, his record labels released 96 albums and 153 singles.

This is one of two albums in my possession: Johnny Cash's Greatest Hits, Volume 1. It had songs like Jackson, I Walk The Line, Understand Your Man, Orange Blossom Special, Ring Of Fire and It Ain't Me Babe, all big hits for the Man In Black.

One of my favourites on this album was Orange Blossom Special which featured Cash on the harmonica. Great mimic of the whistle on the old steam rail engine! I have another version of this song - an instrumental version - with a fiddle instead of a harmonica. It comes from this unique triple album called Will The Circle Be Unbroken. It's a unique landmark album because I consider it a very important part of America's musical heritage, drawing together some of the most important names in American bluegrass and country music of the pre-1971 era and performed by big country/bluegrass names like Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Vassar Clements, Roy Acuff, Jimmy Martin, Merle Travis, Mother Maybelle Carter and of course, not forgetting the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Will The Circle Be Unbroken was, after all, a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band project.

Side 1: Grand Ole Opry Song (Jimmy Martin), Keep On The Sunny Side (Mother Maybelle Carter), Nashville Blues (Earl Scruggs), You Are My Flower (John McEuen), The Precious Jewel (Roy Acuff), Dark As A Dungeon (Merle Travis)
Side 2: Tennessee Stud (Doc Watson), Black Mountain Rag (Doc Watson), Wreck On The Highway (Roy Acuff), The End Of The World (Pete 'Oswald' Kirby), I Saw The Light (Roy Acuff)
Side 3: Sunny Side Of The Mountain (Jimmy Martin), Nine Pound Hammer (Merle Travis), Losing You (Jimmy Martin), Honky Tonkin' (Jimmie Fadden), If You Don't Know My Mind (Jimmy Martin), My Walkin' Shoes (Jimmy Martin)
Side 4: Lonesome Fiddle Blues (Vassar Clements), Cannonball Rag (Merle Travis), Avalanche (Vassar Clements), Flint Hill Special (Earl Scruggs), Togary Mountain (John McEuen), Earl's Breakdown (Earl Scruggs), Orange Blossom Special (Vassar Clements), Wabash Cannonball (Pete 'Oswald' Kirby)
Side 5: Lost Highway (Jim Ibbotson), Way Downtown (Doc Watson), Down Yonder (Doc Watson), Pins And Needles (Roy Acuff), Honky Tonk Blues (Jeff Hanna), Sailin' On To Hawaii (Pete 'Oswald' Kirby)
Side 6: I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes (Mother Maybelle Carter), I'm A Pilgrim (Merle Travis), Wildwood Flower (Mother Maybelle Carter), Soldier's Joy (Earl Scruggs), Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Mother Maybelle Carter), Both Sides Now (Randy Scruggs)

This was the album that started everything off for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy - which contained the hit song Mr Bojangles but it also held other gems like that Kenny Loggins number, House At Pooh Corner.

Side 1: Some Of Shelly's Blues, Prodigal's Return, The Cure, Travelin' Mood, Chicken Reel, Yukon Railroad, Livin' Without You, Clinch Mountain Backstep, Rave On, Billy In The Low Ground, Jesse James
Side 2: Uncle Charlie Interview, Mr Bojangles, Opus 36, Santa Rosa, Propinquity, Uncle Charlie, Randy Lynn Rag, House At Pooh Corner, Swanee River, Uncle Charlie Interview #2

Here are two highly recommended albums by the masters themselves:

From the wikipedia: Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson (born 3 Mar 1923) is an American guitar player, songwriter and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues and gospel music. He has won seven Grammy awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Watson's flatpicking skills and knowledge of traditional American music are highly regarded.

Just dig that Abe Lincoln beard on Doc Watson's Memories:
Side 1: Rambling Hobo, Shady Grove, Wake Up Little Maggie, Peartree, Keep on the Sunny Side, Double File and Salt Creek
Side 2: Curly Headed Baby, Miss the Mississippi and You, Wabash Cannonball, My Rose of Old Kentucky, Blues Stay Away from Me
Side 3: Walking Boss, Make Me a Pallet, In the Jailhouse Now, Steel Guitar Rag, Hang Your Head in Shame, You Don't Know My Mind Blues
Side 4: Moody River, Don't Tell Me Your Troubles, Columbus Stockade, Mama Don't Allow No Music, Thoughts of Never

Again, from the Wikipedia: Vassar Clements (25 Apr 1928 – 16 Aug 2005) was a Grammy Award-winning American virtuoso jazz, swing and bluegrass fiddler.

Vassar Clements' The Bluegrass Session:
Side 1: Reno Shuffle, Vasillee II, It's Mighty Dark to Travel, Stompin Grazz, Nine Pound Hammer
Side 2: Six More Miles, Scuffin, White House Blues, Swingin Low, Rocky Top, Silly Millie

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