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Published: 2012/03/28
by Ron Hart

Tony Rice
The Bill Monroe Collection

Rounder

Tony Rice might primarily be known in jamband circles for his longtime association with David Grisman, particularly his role on the eponymous 1977 debut of the Dawg Music pioneer’s famed Quintet and, more notably, 1993’s Pizza Tapes sessions with Grisman and Jerry Garcia.

However, the 60-year-old guitar great’s three-decade-strong pedigree as one of the modern giants of American bluegrass stands strongly on its own merits. Yet nothing in his recorded output is arguably more indicative of his mastery of the craft quite like the cache of material he has amassed in his scholarly interpretation of the music of Bill Monroe. Over the last 15 years, Rice had paid homage to the Father of Bluegrass on a variety of projects, from solo recordings to tribute albums to collaborations with his brother, ace mandolin player Larry, who sadly passed away from cancer in 2006. And in honor of the 2011 centennial milestone celebrating Monroe and his contributions to American music, Rice has put together 14 of his finest renditions of the Kentucky king’s oveure.

Though serious Rice fans might own much of the material presented on this set, The Bill Monroe Collection nevertheless does a beautiful job pulling from the cream of the crop, which certainly must have been an arduous task given the eerie accuracy of Rice’s ability to channel the musicianship of Monroe. But with the inclusion of such staples as “Stoney Lonesome” from 2000’s The Bluegrass Guitar Collection, “When You Are Lonely” from The Bluegrass Album Band’s 2002 LP Lonesome Moonlight: Bluegrass Songs of Bill Monroe and “Gold Rush” from the out-of-print 2001 compilation celebrating the 30th anniversary of Rice’s longtime label Rounder Records, Collection indeed does a fantastic job providing a robust overview of Rice’s stellar expertise in all the nooks and crannies within the creases of the Monroe catalog.

Regardless of whether you are a Tony Rice completist or someone who cites The Pizza Tapes as your primary introduction to his guitar genius, The Bill Monroe Collection is very much a worthy addition to your record library.

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