Today being Bill Monroe’s birthday it seems fitting to discuss a new CD from young Monroe-style mandolinist Chris Henry. The CD is titled Monroe Approved. Now that may seem like an overly ambiteous title for one so young, but it’s actually quite fitting. We’ve all heard the stories of Bill placing his infamous cowboy hat on the head of a player who had done something he approved of. Here’s Chris’ story:
The title cut was inspired by an evening backstage at the Grand Ole Opry when David McLaughlin introduced 12-year-old Christopher to the Father of Bluegrass. Upon hearing the young mandolin picker play “Rawhide,” Bill took off his hat, placed it on Chris’s head, and danced around the room, subsequently saying, “If you ever need anything, boy, you come let me know.”
A phone call from Butch Baldassari, who produced the early stages of the recording, sparked the idea for this CD. Chris began writing and selecting material that would reflect his Monroe-style approach to the mandolin, which he describes this way:
aggressive, mischievous, and occasionally quite focused and sensitive
The title cut is a three-tune medley that is over 7 minutes in length and features the voice of Bill Monroe himself dubbed in over the music. You’ll have to listen for yourself to find out what Bill is saying.
Chris’s originals “The Indians are Coming” and “Gallatin,” Frank Wakefield’s “Catnip” (the hidden track), and Red Henry’s “Red’s Zeppelin” reflect Chris’s penchant for hardcore instrumentals. The triple fiddles of the slow-grooving masterwork “James River” hark strongly back to the Blue Grass Boys’ triple-fiddle sound. “Listen to the Lonsome Train (Boxcar Door),” featuring Roland White, has quickly become a listener favorite for its old-sounding appeal. And the rarely heard triple-mandolin harmony on “Farewell to Long Hollow” stands out as a highlight.
Chris is joined on the recording by some of today’s top players, including: Ronnie McCoury, Jason Carter, Mike Bub, David McLaughlin, Robert Bowlin, Alan O’Bryant, and Butch Baldassari, as well as Canadian songster Adam Olmstead, Chris’s uncle John Hedgecoth, sister Casey Henry, and father Red Henry.
Chris’ playing can also be heard to good effect on a the CD Get Along Girl. This CD was released during the first quarter of this year from the band Chris shares with sister Casey, Casey and Chris and the Two-Stringers.