The centennial anniversary of Bill Monroeâ€™s birth has produced an outpouring of tributes (e.g., 1 2 3 4 5) from many of the musicians whoâ€™ve descended from the masterâ€™s vision. Each of the disciples has played Monroeâ€™s tunes on stage and recorded them sporadically, but with these tributes theyâ€™ve made album length statements about their relationship to the music and the man. Tony Rice has also played and recorded Monroeâ€™s music, but instead of recording a purpose-built tribute, his label has cherry-picked fourteen tracks from nine albums released between 1981 and 2000. This includes solo titles and sessions with David Grisman, the Tony Rice Unit, the Rice Bothers and the Bluegrass Album Band.
Fans may already have many of these tracks on original albums or previous collections (Lonesome Moonlight: Bluegrass Songs of Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Guitar Collection), but for those not steeped in the Tony Rice catalog, this is a fine anthology. Not only is Rice a preeminent bluegrass guitarist and singer, but twenty years of recordings say as much about Riceâ€™s evolving relationship to Monroe as they do about Monroe himself. The set mixes vocal and instrumental tracks, and ranges from traditional playing to styles influenced by jazz and swing. Marian Levyâ€™s liners fill out Riceâ€™s view of Monroe, though the ink she spends on ponderous philosophizing would have been better spent discussing the songs, performances and settings. Chuck the liner notes and youâ€™ll find all you need to know in the grooves. [Â©2012 hyperbolium dot com]