Rebel remembers Bill Monroe

Rebel Records recently announced the forthcoming release of two CDs to remember the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bill Monroe.

They have searched their vaults and found a great store of recordings that enables them to release not one, but two albums that celebrate the two faces of Bill Monroe’s music.

With Body And Soul features 17 classic Monroe secular songs and instrumentals performed by The Seldom Scene (My Little Georgia Rose), Del McCourt & the Dixie Pals (White House Blues), IIIrd Tyme Out (Blue Yodel #3), Kenny Baker and Bobby Hicks (Tallahasee), Red Allen (Close By), Don Rigsby & Midnight Call (Kentucky Waltz), The Boys From Indiana (The Girl in the Blue Velvet Band) and Tony Rice (A Good Woman’s Love) among others.

The set also includes a track previously unreleased on Rebel: Uncle Pen performed by Jim & Jesse McReynolds.

The second set, Let The Light Shine Down, has 17 sacred songs from the likes of The Country Gentlemen (A Beautiful Life), the Lilly Brothers & Don Stover (When the Saints Go Marching In), Dave Evans (Mansions for Me), The Lost & Found (Boat of Love) and Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice (Let the Light Shine Down).

There are three unreleased recordings – Don Reno and Benny Martin (Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and He Will Set Your Fields on Fire) and Larry Richardson (I’ll Meet You in Church Sunday Morning), and two  performances, I Am a Pilgrim and Mother’s Only Sleeping, by the Stanley Brothers that are previously unreleased on CD.

Rebel Records’ Mark Freeman reminded me of the history behind some of the songs chosen for these two sets ….

“The earliest recording from the secular With Body And Soul collection is Red Allen’s version of Close By which he recorded sometime in the Fall of 1965. As you may know, it was never originally issued by Rebel, appearing first on the Various Artist Springtime In The Mountains LP that my dad [Dave Freeman] put out on County in the late 70s (County LP 749). The newest recording on With Body And Soul is Don Rigsby’s cut of Kentucky Waltz which came out in 2006.

As for the gospel CD, the earliest song is the Stanley Brother’s I Am a Pilgrim, which was cut in December of 1963 at the very first session for Ray Davis’s Wango label (first issued on Wango 103, re-released as The Stanley Brothers: Uncloudy Day, County 753). Their take on Mother’s Only Sleeping, also released on Wango (first on Wango 106, reissued as The Stanley Brothers: That Little Old Country Church House, County 738), doesn’t fall too far behind. It was recorded within a few months of that first session. The most recent recording from the gospel disc is the title track Let The Light Shine Down, by Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice which appeared on last year’s Heartaches and Dreams project.

With regards to how the tracks were chosen, it was all put together by dad. He started with a list of over 50 songs for the secular CD and around 30 for the gospel disc. Although a big consideration of his was to feature as many different artists as possible, his main goal was to find the strongest versions of Monroe songs in the Rebel and County catalogs.

An interesting aspect to me, which dad pointed out, is that these two collections feature a total of 23 artists who were once Blue Grass Boys at one time or another! They are: Eddie Adcock, Kenny Baker, Bob Black, Porter Church, Jack Cooke, Noah Crase, Randy Davis, Richard Greene, Bobby Hicks, Bill Keith, Del McCoury, Sonny Osborne, Don Reno, Larry Richardson, Peter Rowan, Carter Stanley, Don Stover, Joe Stuart, ‘Tater’ Tate, Roland White, Benny Williams, Mac Wiseman and Bill Yates.”

Both volumes, which will be released on August 23, include superb, extensive song notes by well-known Monroe biographer Neil V. Rosenberg.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.