Music Reviews
Tony Rice

Tony Rice

The Bill Monroe Collection

Rounder Records

It’s only fitting that for the centennial anniversary of Bill Monroe’s birth in 2011, Rounder would collect the champion flatpicker Tony Rice’s most memorable adaptations of the “Big Mon”s greatest songs. The Bill Monroe Collection features tracks from various Rice albums including 2002’s Lonesome Moonlight, Unit Of Measure from 2000, and various other Rice collaborations. And it’s all incredible. Perhaps more so than any other guitarist, Tony Rice has taken the genius of Bill Monroe’s music to another level. Bluegrass music, as invented by Monroe, is at its heart a simple music. Guitar, banjo, bass and mandolin all around a single microphone is the standard, the songs generally are old time fiddle tunes, and each instrument gets a few solos along the way.

But in the hands of Tony Rice, the guitar is anything but simple. First, he’s incredibly fast. I venture that no “shred” metal guitar player could hold a candle to him for sheer notes per measure, but the real joy in the music of Rice is the places he takes us when he plays. The mountain music of old time bluegrass takes on a jazz flavor in his hands, akin to the great Django Reinhardt replacing Lester Flatt in the Bluegrass Boys. Along with guitarist Norman Blake, mandolinist David Grisman and others, classic Monroe numbers such as “Muleskinner Blues” and “Molly and Tenbrooks” are given new life, and anyone who loves Bill Monroe or just acoustic music in general will enjoy this tribute by the legendary Tony Rice.


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