Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bill Monroe

  • RCA Country Legends [RCA/BMG Heritage, 2002] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

RCA Country Legends [RCA/BMG Heritage, 2002]
Barraged for years with acoustic country music of every region, era, concept of reality, and elevation above sea level, my lifelong resistance to bluegrass has weakened--the old autonomous nervous system perks up of its own accord when I segue from natural-born archivist Roscoe Holcomb, say, to this certified genius. But while I also brighten at Classic Bluegrass From Smithsonian Folkways, I notice more details on the equally inauthentic Classic Old-Time Music, which may explain my special attraction to this transitional collection, from before the style Monroe fabricated knew its name or Earl Scruggs. Virtuoso stuff without the intense harmonies, precise interlocks, and competitive showmanship that make goo-goo eyes at slickness on the Columbia comps and MCA's post-Flatt & Scruggs Country Music Hall of Fame Series, these 1940-41 recordings share a sense of innocent fun with the mountain music Monroe was just then jazzing up. The piety and pain are palpable; occasionally a beat stumbles or a voice cracks. You can understand why Monroe wanted something better for himself. You're just not sure he was right. A-