Tony Rice pays tribute to Big Mon

Tributes to Bill Monroe continue into the new year with the January 31, 2012 release by ace guitarist Tony Rice, The Bill Monroe Collection (Rounder Records).

The material, consisting of 14 songs and instrumentals by Monroe, was recorded by Rice in a variety of band configurations over15 years. These songs and tunes have been previously released, but never as a compilation.

Virginia-born Rice grew up exposed to a fairly broad range of music first listening to bluegrass music in southern California, where his family had moved when he was young. It was there that his father introduced him to the sounds of Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys.

Over the course of his career, he has played alongside J.D. Crowe & the New South; David Grisman; Jerry Garcia; Norman Blake; and in the Tony Rice Unit and in the Bluegrass Album Band.

For all of his eclecticism Rice still holds Monroe in very high regard, commenting, “I see Bill Monroe in the same light as Miles Davis, absolutely the best…as pure as it gets.”

The 14 titles on The Bill Monroe Collection are …

  • I’m On My Way Back To The Old Home [Rounder 0140]
  • When You Are Lonely [0120]
  • Jerusalem Ridge [0405]
  • Mule Skinner Blues [0183]
  • Sittin’ Alone In The Moonlight [0164]
  • Stoney Lonesome [0330]
  • Molly And Tenbrooks [0140]
  • River Of Death [0140]
  • Gold Rush [0405]
  • On And On [0253]
  • I Believe in You Darling [0140]
  • Cheyenne [0210]
  • Little Cabin Home On The Hill [0251/2]
  • You’re Drifting Away [0256]

Looking at the track listing I guess that many recordings are from various Bluegrass Album Band sessions. The cuts came from the Rounder albums specified.

Ricky Skaggs is quoted in Caroline Wright and Tim Stafford’s full-length biography about him, Still Inside, “This guy is the best singer I’ve ever heard”. While Alison Krauss says in the same book, “(Rice’s) singing and the playing are so shockingly beautiful.”

In 1983, Rice received a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance as part of the New South band. He has received several IBMA awards, including that for Guitar Player of the Year six times.

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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.