BYRON BERLINE, THANKS BILL MONROE
Double Stop Music
Byron Berline played fiddle with Mr. Monroe for a spell in the 1960s, recording “Virginia Darlin’,” “Sally Goodun,” and “Gold Rush” during his tenure. About the same time, he recorded an all fiddle tune album with the Dillards and with these recordings, he became one of the most revered of the bluegrass fiddlers. He went on to play with a host of bands including the Rolling Stones and the movie soundtrack for Jeremiah Johnson In his long career, he has maintained relationships in Los Angeles and Guthrie, Okla., the home of his fiddle shop. Utilizing a band from these two locations, Berline has recorded his tribute to Bill Monroe.
Taking significant liberties with the songs, organizing them into medleys, taking them through multiple keys, “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” and using instruments that Monroe did not generally feature, like percussion, electric bass and resonator guitar, Berline sticks to his own sound while interpreting Monroe’s music.
While it is not entirely clear from the liner notes who is playing what instrument on each cut, the level of performances are all high. The important thing is there is not a bad cut on the project. John Hickman’s banjo rules throughout, and it is great to hear his inventive and tasteful work. While no mandolin player is listed, it is safe to assume that the great mandolin playing is by Berline. The real standout here is the fiddling. With some twin help from either Greg Burgess or Dennis Fechet, Berline shows you why he is so highly respected. Standout cuts include “Blue-Eyed Darlin’,” “You’ll Find Her Name Written There,” and “Uncle Pen” in a full band arrangement that Berline did with Hickman and Dan Crary back in the day.
This is a fine tribute to Mr. Monroe. It really shines in the instrumental aspects and will be required listening for anyone who loves great fiddling. (Double Stop Music, 121 E. Oklahoma, Guthrie, OK 73044.)RCB