Best of the Best

50 Years of Bluegrass Hits: Vol. 1 (CMH)

50 Years of Dueling Banjos (CMH)

Various Artists

By Bob Mitchell

CMH has given fans of traditional bluegrass two winners. Over the past few years, there has been endless discussion about what is bluegrass music and what is not, but make no mistake, these projects are outstanding compilations of the "real stuff." Long time fans will be familiar with most of the artists and songs because many of the artists are members of the bluegrass hall of honor and many of the songs are now considered to be "standards."

Both recordings contain the earthy sounds of authentic bluegrass roaring along at the pace of a 16-wheeler on its way home. Every track is substantive and enjoyable. My only suggestion is that future offerings contain liner notes with track information that specifies a recording date and the names of the musicians.

The twenty-five tracks on 50 years of Bluegrass Hits: Vol. 1 provide a generous 69 minutes of listening pleasure. Some of the highlights include "The Midnight Train" (Jim and Jessie and The Virginia Boys), "Kentucky Waltz" (The Osborne Brothers), "Love Letters In The Sand" (Mac Wiseman), "Salty Dog Blues" (Benny Martin and Josh Graves) and "What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul" (Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass).

There are 20 tracks totaling 49 minutes on 50 years of Dueling Banjos, including a stellar live performance of "Feudin' Banjos" by Don Reno. This CD offers much more than dueling banjos. The listener is treated to a classic arrangement of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" featuring Benny Martin's fiddle and "Earl's Breakdown" showcasing the incredible Dobro work of Josh Graves. Some of my other favorite cuts included "Train 45" by Mac Wiseman, "Blue Is The Color of Lonesome" by the Bluegrass Cardinals, "Sunny Side Of The Mountain" by Jimmy Martin and "The Foggy Mountain Special" by Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass.

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