Tuesday, February 7, 2012

CD REVIEW - Tony Rice - The Bill Monroe Collection

By Dan King

Tony Rice  -  The Bill Monroe Collection

Record Label: Rounder
Released Jan.31, 2012

Ask Alison Krauss how she feels about Tony Rice and the answer comes short and sweet."Tony's music is my favorite music ever recorded.”

Tony Rice is equally positive in his take on Bill Monroe – “I see Bill Monroe in the same light as Miles Davis, absolutely the best….as pure as it gets.”

Throw those two glowing assessments into a pot, add accompaniment by some of the best bluegrass pickers to ever circulate air molecules, stir for fifteen years and you’ll be enjoying Tony Rice’s tasty new CD, “The Bill Monroe Collection.” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for some time to come.

This work is nothing short of the master playing the master.

“The Bill Monroe Collection” is just that, a collection. The songs were recorded at various points during the last 15 years, but the mix is surprisingly consistent, and the overall engineering is well done and modern sounding. Tony Rice and friends deliver 14 Monroe classics with tender loving care and a deep passion for the genre. Like a boy trying on his daddy’s hat, you can almost sense the respect and dignity the music offers the man, Bill Monroe.

From the very first tune that comes charging out at the listener like the Tasmanian Devil from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons, this is a musical romp of the highest proportion. The tempos and grooves on the entire album are extremely tight and close knit, and the solos by all the players are breathtaking throughout. Tony Rice’s guitar playing evokes the imagery of a flat rock with a jet pack skipping down a mighty river over and over and over again, bobbing and weaving it’s way above the flowing waters, touching down just long enough to gain momentum for its next flight.

As for the tunes themselves, Bill Monroe’s compositions and influence define Bluegrass Music. Contained are many Monroe favorites like “Molly and Tenbrooks,” and “Muleskinner Blues.” The fact that some obvious candidates like “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Uncle Pen” are not included here actually mirror Rice’s propensity in his playing to do anything BUT the obvious.

Alison Krauss and Tony Rice have won more awards between them than the bottom 27 finishing countries in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Though Ms. Krause is not on this CD, I believe her above stated wisdom is born out in the tracks of Tony Rice’s latest offering. In fact, I would say the only thing that would make this collection any better is if it shipped with a seat belt and a Bill Monroe Bobble Head Doll.

My rating is five banjo strings out of five, and a thumb pick way up!


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