Entertainment Weekly (11/1/96, p.70) - "...Thirty bluegrass and country-music wizards...pick'n'sing 17 of Monroe's compositions with virtuosity and flair. As long as bluegrass attracts super vocalists like [Del] McCoury and instrumentalists like guitarist David Grier, Monroe's legacy will never die."
- Rating: A
Q (4/97, p.153) - 4 stars (out of 5) - "...a fine album with some fine vocal playoffs amid the thrashing mandolins."
TRUE LIFE BLUES: THE SONGS OF BILL MONROE is a tribute to "The Father Of Bluegrass" who died in September 1996. It features some of the biggest names in modern bluegrass collaborating on 17 classic Monroe tunes.
Personnel: Kathy Kallick, Del McCoury, Pat Enright, Peter Rowan (vocals, guitar); Ronnie McCoury, Tim O'Brien, Greg Garing, Roland White (vocals, mandolin); John Hartford (vocals, banjo, fiddle); Alan O'Bryant, Herb Pedersen (vocals, banjo); Laurie Lewis (vocals, fiddle); Mollie O'Brien (vocals); David Grier, Scott Nygaard, Jim Nunally (guitar); Mike Compton, Mike Marshall, Sam Bush, John Reischman, Chris Thile, David Grisman (mandolin); Craig Smith, Tony Trischka (banjo); Jerry Douglas (dobro); Stuart Duncan, Vassar Clements, Bobby Hicks, Richard Greene (fiddle); Todd Phillips (bass).
Engineers include: Todd Phillips.
Includes liner notes by John Hartley Fox, Todd Phillips, Pat Enright, Peter Rowan, Tim O'Brien, Ronnie McCoury, Roland White, David "Dawg" Grisman and John Hartford.
TRUE LIFE BLUES: THE SONGS OF BILL MONROE won the 1997 Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. "Scotland" (performed by Vassar Clements, Richard Greene, Chris Thile, Scott Nygaard and Todd Phillips) and "Rawhide" (performed by Ronnie McCoury, David Grier, Stuart Duncan, Craig Smith and Todd Phillips) were both nominated for the 1997 Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance.
Personnel: Tim O'Brien (vocals, guitar, mandolin); Del McCoury, Kathy Kallick, Peter Rowan, Pat Enright (vocals, guitar); John Hartford (vocals, banjo, fiddle); Herb Pedersen (vocals, banjo); Greg Garing, Roland White, Ronnie McCoury (vocals, mandolin); Laurie Lewis (vocals, fiddle); Alan O'Bryant, Mollie O'Brien (vocals); David Grier, Jim Nunally, Scott Nygaard (guitar); Jerry Douglas (dobro); Craig Smith, Tony Trischka (banjo); Chris Thile, David Grisman, John Reischman, Mike Compton, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall (mandolin); Richard Greene , Stuart Duncan, Vassar Clements, Bobby Hicks (fiddle).
Audio Mixer: Todd Phillips.
Recording information: 1103 Studio, Nashville, TN; Current Sounds, New York, NY; ERC, Emeryville, CA; Gatorland, Oakland, CA; Stagg St. Studio, Van Nuys, CA; The Truck, Nashville, TN; Tomland, Pacheco, CA; Trace Sound, Nashville, TN.
Photographer: Elizabeth Tormes.
The 17 newly-recorded songs on this album comprise a loving tribute to the man generally considered to have invented bluegrass music, and the album was timed well, coming out just shortly before Monroe's death in 1996 at the age of 85. The songs are mostly pretty predictable. The program leads off with the Nashville Bluegrass Band's rendition of "Molly and Tenbrooks" (on which Alan O'Bryant does a pretty fair Monroe impression), and proceeds through a hair-raising rendition of "I'm on My Way Back to the Old Home" by the Del McCoury Band. Other classics by various lineups follow: Vassar Clements and Richard Greene team up for a bracing run-through of the instrumental "Scotland"; Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick do great job on the title track; and Tim and Mollie O'Brien give "Sitting Alone in the Moonlight" a suitably haunting performance. Peter Rowan may be overrated as a singer, but as a former Blue Grass Boy and a tireless champion of Monroe's work, he has certainly earned the right to sing "Travelin' This Lonesome Road" and "Letter From My Darlin'." Highly recommended. ~ Rick Anderson