Review: The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.) - Various Artists,
Plus Bonus CD Scott Holstein - Cold Coal Town
Album Cover - The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.)
The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.)
 Artist: Various Artists,
Bonus CD: Scott Holstein
 Album: The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.),
Bonus CD: Cold Coal Town
 Date of Release: 2012/01
 Label: World Music Network
 Cat. No.: RGNET1267
 Country of Release: UK
 Genre/s: World

 Sub-Genre/s: Bluegrass
 Type: Studio
   Time: 65:19
Bonus CD: 37:36
   Date of Review: 2013/01/19
   Web Site:

Purchasing Info

Album Cover - Bonus CD: Cold Coal Town
Bonus CD: Cold Coal Town
The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.)

The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.) was released on the excellent World Music Network label in January 2012 and is another in this franchise of 'Rough Guides' that seems to have endless possibilities for more. Regrettably, it has been sitting in my long queue of CDs awaiting review for almost a year, and that is a shame.

As such, it is an excellent introduction to contemporary bluegrass, especially its more commercial, Nashville variety. There are the big guns like Ricky Scaggs and Kathy Mattea, and more. And the more classic greats are also represented, by the likes of Ralph Stanley and Hazel Dickens. But one really might have liked to see a few more tracks by the 'fathers' of the more rootsy grass such as 'Big Mon' Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers in a 'Rough Guide' to this wonderful and often still much undervalued genre.

Bluegrass comes from North America's Appalachian Mountains and is, essentially, an amalgamation of various earlier European folk traditions, in particular British Isles traditions brought to the region by immigrants in the 18th century, with influences from Afro-American blues and jazz traditions. However, it was singer and mandolin virtuoso Big Mon who formulated the conventional instrumentation of mandolin, 5-string banjo (usually played 3-finger or Scruggs style), fiddle, guitar and double bass (usually played plucked, sometimes 'slap bass' style) and codified the genre, placing an emphasis on fine virtuosic playing. Departures from the instrumentation include Dobro or resonator guitar, harmonica, piano, and drums. Electric instruments can also be found in the more recent sub-genres of progressive bluegrass and newgrass (not represented here, but ought to be the subject of a 'Rough Guide' album by itself!), the perhaps best known exponent of which is internationally acclaimed and phenomenal banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck (& The Flecktones). A further characteristic of bluegrass is 2-, 3-, or 4-part vocal harmony, called a 'stack.' The vocal lead is often in the middle, but can also be found high above the harmony. The name bluegrass is generally thought to have been adopted as late as the late 1950s and to have been derived from Bill Monroe's band, the Blue Grass Boys, formed in 1939.

So much for a very 'potted' guide to the definitions, origins and history of the glorious music that is bluegrass. Whole books could be and have been written on the subject. The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.) is as good an introduction to this music as could be found anywhere, and is a highly enjoyable listen in its own right.

Also a highly enjoyable listen is the Bonus CD, Scott Holstein's Cold Coal Town. This is bluegrass with a good infusion of rock. Like much of bluegrass, its dominant theme is the role of coal in the life of Appalachian mountain folk.

Each of these two CDs would well be worth the price of admission. Together, they make for probably the biggest, best bargain of the year that is simply unmissable even if you're already a grass aficionado with a fine collection.

The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.) in World Music Network's 'Rough Guide' series is, over all, just gorgeous and has to rank as one of their most outstanding compilations.

© 2013 Rainlore's World/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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Track List:

 1. Gibson Brothers: Safe Passage - 5:49
 2. Kathy Mattea: Coal Tattoo - 4:29
 3. Ralph Stanley: Dream Of A Miner's Child - 4:05
 4. Darrell Scott: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive - 6:12
 5. Sierra Hull: From Now On - 4:32
 6. The Grascals: Blue Rock Slide - 5:26
 7. Claire Lynch: A Canary's Song - 5:27
 8. Peter Rowan: Across The Rolling Hills - 4:58
 9. Hazel Dickens: Coal Mining Woman - 5:06
10. Larry Sparks: The Old Coal Mine - 4:15
11. Ricky Skaggs: Coal Minin' Man - 5:01
12. The Steel Drivers: Blue Side Of The Mountain - 4:39
13. Charlie Sizemore: Fords Of Pittman - 3:59
14. The Country Gentlemen: Paradise - 4:38
15. Tom T Hall: A Hero In Harlan - 5:09
16. Ginny Hawker: Jesus Is The Rock - 3:42
17. Blue Highway: Union Man - 4:45
18. Dry Branch Fire Squad: Black Lung - 3:40

Bonus CD: Scott Holstein - Cold Coal Town

 1. The Spell - 4:27
 2. Walls of Stone - 5:51
 3. Cold Coal Town - 5:28
 4. Blackwater - 4:02
 5. Leavin' Charleston - 4:32
 6. Boone County Blues - 4:12
 7. Montani Semper Liberi - 4:07
 8. Roll Coal Roll - 4:02
 9. Clinch Mountain Hills - 4:49
10. The Holstein Waltz - 5:04
11. Ain't No Higher Ground - 3:56

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Various Artists

Bonus CD: Scott Holstein


Purchasing Info:

The Rough Guide To Bluegrass (2nd Ed.) can be purchased from:


Amazon UK



Other online sources and CD stores

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