It carries the theme of their previous album, True Grass, and a return to the old time sound of bluegrass from its earliest days. This is even centered around the Father himself, Bill Monroe, and the F-5 mandolin he played, a rare 1923 model signed by Gibson master builder, Lloyd Loar. Both because of its rarity and desirability as a collectible instrument, and the fact that it was used by Monroe in the creation of so much classic bluegrass music, this mandolin has a revered status among bluegrass fans and mandolin lovers worldwide.
The song, written by David Stewart, tells of a momentous event in October 2018, when Ricky Skaggs was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. To celebrate this milestone, curators of the Hall of Fame Museum retrieved Monroe’s Loar from its place on display, and brought it out for Skaggs to play on stage. When it was announced onstage at the induction, a collective sign was heard from the audience, and Ricky was clearly moved by this honor.
Stewart tells us how that encounter affected him, and inspired him to write the song.
“As I sat late one night watching The CMHF award show, Ricky Skaggs was getting inducted and they handed him Bill Monroe’s mandolin to play. As I watched, he held it like the Bible, he embraced it like a friend. He spoke softly to it and it spoke to him. I began writing the song and could not put my pen down. I wrote what I saw for the first verse and chorus. The second verse I wrote was about the mandolin getting destroyed and put back together again. That was something that Mr. Monroe shared with me in a conversation once. I am so grateful that the good Lord sent this special song down to me.”
On the Carolina Road recording, which will be included on their next Pinecastle project, Allen Dyer gives a moving performance of the slow, 3/4 time ballad, set against video of the band picking through the song and images of Monroe and his trusty F-5.
Along with Lorraine on mandolin and Allen on guitar, Carolina Road is Ben Greene on banjo, Randy Graham on bass, and Matt Hooper on fiddle.
Bill Monroe’s Ol’ Mandolin is available now wherever you stream or download music online, and to radio programmers at AirPlay Direct.
And for bluegrass fans suffering withdrawal as a result of the virus restrictions, Lorraine and the band will be performing a free live stream concert this Friday (3/27) via Facebook live. Nixon, Blevins & Gage will open the show at 7:30 p.m. (EDT), followed by Carolina Road at 8:15. A virtual tip jar will be provided online, accepting donations for IBMA’s Bluegrass Trust Fund, which will be stretched this year assisting bluegrass professionals down on their luck from show cancellations.
To watch the live feed, simply visit the Carolina Road Facebook page on Friday evening.