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Dawg Plays Big Mon - A Not So Ordinary Tribute to Bill Monroe

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Dawg Plays Big MonSeptember was the centennial of the Father of Bluegrass Music who was born 100 years ago this year. Many tribute albums were making the round and there was some great music to be shared. But, one album, stands alone. A not so ordinary tribute by an artist who lives on the edge of bluegrass -- the master mandolinist David "Dawg" Grisman. Dawg Plays Bog Mon - Happy Birthday Bill Monroe has the soul of bluegrass along with the high-lonesome sound and it is performed by some of the best in bluegrass music. This album probably should get 11 stars out of 10!

From beginning to end, the album accurately reflects the essence of Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. The music is right on, the presentation is perfect, the selections are wonderful and most importantly, it retains the soul that early bluegrass music possessed.

The album consists of old, new and in between selections with additional artists including Vassar Clements, Jerry Garcia, Red Allen, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Del McCoury with Rob and Ronnie, Darol Anger & Mike Marshall, Peter Rowan, Artie Rose, Ralph Rinzler, John Hartford, Mike Seeger, Jerry Douglas, Harriet Rose, and more! The tracks, artists and arrangements stand way above the other tribute albums that have crossed my desk in recent months. Way above! David Grisman plays mandolin, 6-string banjo, mando-viola and sings vocals on various tracks on the album.

The album contains 21 tracks with the last being an interview of Bill Monroe by Ralph Rinzler which David Grisman recorded in 1965. This is the first time this interview has been issued. But, this isn't the only dialog on the album. The dialog adds a missing dimension to the release which just brings the listener closer to the music of Bill Monroe. The album also contains many other previously unissued tracks including alternate takes of familiar pieces.

But, it is the collection that holds you from beginning to end and then, its time to listen to the entire album again... and again... and maybe even again! For those who knew Monroe and listened to him and his music over the years and, who were fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with the Big Mon and enjoy his Big Strong-fisted hand-shake, you will appreciate the way this album speaks even more. Monroe wasn't as "finicky" as many of today's bluegrassers are and I'm sure he would approve of this work. This album holds strong to tradition and the roots but in its own creative way that avoids doing it the way Bill Monroe would. Monroe always appreciated hearing something new. This is just one of the many facets that separates this tribute album from the rest.

Most of the songs were written by Bill Monroe but there are others such as "New Muleskinner Blues" by Jimmy Rodgers, a few Traditional and "Happy Birthday Bill Monroe" written by David, himself. There are instrumentals and vocal tracks, live and studio recordings and every one is a shining gem in its own light.

While much of today's music is mixed, mastered, polished and shined to the point that it loses all essence of soul and the breath of life, this album does not suffer in that regard. While the artistry is precision in motion, the music retains the personality and character of early Bill Monroe bluegrass. This music is truly alive.

This tribute album touches Bill Monroe and brings his music back to life. It does this while honoring Monroe by performing his style of music in a way that is and isn't Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys. Dawg Plays Bog Mon - Happy Birthday Bill Monroe is a Mighty Fine tribute.

Read the Cybergrass Release Article David Grisman Honors Bill Monroe with 'Dawg Plays Big Mon' written last week.

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