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David Royko Psy.D

Bear Family Records - the Bluegrass Mosaic

August 4, 2000

Bear Family is the one company that actually could put Mosaic to shame (at least a little bit). These sets are pretty incredible.

Being a bluegrass fan, most of my Bear Family boxes reflect that. One exception is Galloping Guitar, which is a 4-CD set of Chet Atkins' early sides. A musician friend in Nashville has told me that Atkins was angry about this set because he doesn't care for his early recordings any longer, and the set is now OOP. I don't know if that's true or not. There is a companion single disc called Jazz from the Hills, which includes the great String Dusters sessions (and like the 4-CD set, has plenty of Jethro Burns playing).

There are 3 Bill Monroe boxes, each one covering a decade ('50s, '60s, '70s). The '50s set is, IMO, the single greatest non-compilation bluegrass set ever issued. The '60s set is also wonderful, and the '70s set has plenty of fine material as well.

There are also 3 Flatt & Scruggs sets, and the earliest one, covering the '50s, is almost as significant as the '50s Monroe set, some might even say more significant. The third box of F&S is more for hard-core fans, since by then

they were doing some pretty sorry stuff for Columbia. (To hear Lester singing Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," for bluegrass fans, is a sort of equivalent to William Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.") There is also a set covering Lester Flatt's solo years, not something that interests me that much.

Bear has also done great sets of the Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Jim & Jesse, the Stanley Brothers, and the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers.

Dave Royko