Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Over the years, Putumayo has put out excellent sampler collections of virtually every genre and region imaginable, specializing in identifying all the major forms of world music.  There's even been Acadian, Newfoundland and Celtic music from our region represented.  How then the label has managed to go this long without a bluegrass collection is a surprise.  But here it is, a prime primer for those looking to learn, or just find a good cross-section.

Now, you might quibble that this is hardly strictly bluegrass.  You won't find any Bill Monroe here, the man who invented the sound.  Instead, it's the modern stuff that's largely featured, with its most bankable star, Alison Krauss, leading things off.  "But Bob," I hear you question, "Isn't Krauss, like, a bluegrass star?"  Sure, but the Newgrass revival changed all the hard-and-fast rules of bluegrass, and Krauss and most others of the past two decades have incorporated popular lyrics, jazz changes, and sometimes instruments into the blend.  All I'm saying here is don't look for much old-timey stuff.

Instead, newbies such as Uncle Earl and Railroad Earth get a plug, along with beloved vets Peter Rowan, Sam Bush and Seldom Scene, all delivering updates of Monroe's child.  Some choose to go into the classic canon, such as James Alan Shelton with Shady Groves, and Rowan's Man Of Constant Sorrow, which does give us the link back.  That balances off Seldom Scene's cover of Dylan's Boots Of Spanish Leather, and the near-pop of Andrea Zonn's New Night Dawning.  As with any set on this label, it's all high quality right through; I just prefer my bluegrass less adorned and sweet.

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