Various Artists – Blue Moon of Kentucky: Instrumental Tribute to Bill Monroe (Rural Rhythm, 2011)
Mike Scott leads an all-star line-up, including Adam Steffey, Bryan Sutton, Rob Ickes, Aubrey Haynie, Mike Compton, Tim Stafford and Ben Isaacs, on this instrumental tribute to the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Twelve of these tracks were previously released as a gift shop item on the Maple Street label, but with six additional performances and broader distribution from Rural Rhythm, this release welcomes the 100th anniversary year of Monroe’s birth. Trimmed of bluegrass vocal harmonies, the instrumentalists have plenty of room to solo, and they do so with great finesse. There’s some requisite hot picking, but more interesting are the ballads and mid-tempo numbers on which the melodic beauty and subtle instrumental tones aren’t overwhelmed by frenetic tempos. The lazy fiddle that introduces “Blue Moon of Kentucky” gives way to some fine mid-tempo playing, “Kentucky Waltz” is as relaxed and warm as an outdoor summer’s dance, and Scott, Ickes and Haynie trade wonderfully slow, lost-in-thought solos on “Precious Memories.” This is a sweet tribute to the musical roots of bluegrass and a fitting marker for Bill Monroe’s hundredth birthday anniversary.