What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul? (BMG Special Projects/Rounder)

Bill and Charlie Monroe

By Bob Mitchell

What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul? is the first in a project that will eventually consist of four CDs, restoring the complete body of sixty works complied by the Monroe Brothers over three years. It's so wonderful, it's difficult to describe. Each time you listen, you are transported back to a time when music was absolutely pure and from the heart. Every track is a glimpse into the past, a past that would forever shape the future of subsequent country and bluegrass recordings. Sixty-five years after these songs were saved on vinyl, they are still vibrant and powerful. Remember too, there are only two voices, a guitar, and a mandolin - nothing more!

These rare recordings bring a smile to the heart and an occasional tear to the eye. What is amazing is that these tunes still serve as the benchmark for those who love and remain true to old time, traditional and bluegrass music. It staggers the imagination to accept the fact that these fifteen cuts were actually made in "a makeshift studio in a dusty storeroom." There have been countless covers of these classic melodies, and, although many of the new translations have been outstanding, none have actually improved on the original takes.

Generally speaking, there is limited value in simply listing the song titles, but in this instance, it would be an unforgivable omission, because this recording is pure gold: "My Long Journey Home," What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul," "Nine Pound Hammer," "Foggy Mountain Top," "Drifting Too Far From The Shore," "New River Train," "This World Is Not My Home," "On The Banks Of The Ohio," You've Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley," "In My Dear Old Southern Home," "God Holds The Future In His Hands," Do You Call That Religion," "What Is A Home Without Love," "Little Red Shoes" and "Watermelon Hangin' on That Vine."

I have tried to imagine how people in 1936 reacted when they heard these revolutionary sounds of incredible harmony and Bill's masterful mandolin. I can only speculate what those listeners of long ago felt, but I can assure you it is also exciting in 2001.