This week, let’s celebrate the birthday of the King of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe. The Kentucky born Monroe got started in music in 1929 and had a number of hit records with his brother in the ‘30s. After World War II, Monroe assembled a legendary group of musicians for his Blue Grass Boys, and really began to spread the style of music around the world. Monroe’s band included the future duo of Flatt & Scruggs. Over two years, they recorded classic after classic, including Monroe’s theme song, “Blue Moon Over Kentucky”. Great musicians would come and go in his band, which rode high until the latter part of the ‘50s. The folk revival revived Monroe, who kept recording for years, and played his final show in 1996. His influence on American music is towering. In honor of Bill Monroe, grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Nick Lowe – Skin Deep (Labour of Lust): Is this Nick Lowe’s best album? He’s got a handful that could arguably take the top spot. This is just a splendid pop confection with a wonderful chorus. Don Dixon did a really nice cover of this.
Ruby & The Romantics – When You’re Young And In Love (Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found): This is a torchy ballad, girl group style. In fact, this may have been marketed to the kids, but a lot of their parents might have liked this tune if they gave it a chance. Ruby can really sing.
Bill Fay – Release Is In The Eye (Time of the Last Persecution): I got into Bill Fay on the strength of his amazing comeback album from last year. This is from his second album for 41 years ago, which is sharp folk rock. The fact that Fay dealt with spiritual issues from a Christian perspective, without being preachy (instead he was philosophical) probably doomed his prospects. This is a very intense song.
Carole King – Like Little Children (The Legendary Demos): I love this collection of King’s demos. Some of the songs on the album ended up on Tapestry, while others were recorded by other artists. This was waxed by The Knickerbockers in 1966. King’s demos are very fully realized, and this smart R & B-meets-folk tune is a great tune.
Antibalas featuring Mayra Vega – Che Che Cole Makossa (Daptone Gold): A cool funk tune with a Latin flavor, typical of this band with Ms. Vega adding some vocals for flavor. Great track – why don’t I own an Antibalas album?
Crowded House – Pineapple Head (Together Alone): A favorite amongst Crowded House fans, who are very dedicated. There’s a neat acoustic guitar figure that is a hook unto itself and the song is just chock full of typically wonderful Neil Finn melodies. The song just swoops and glides, ending back up on that memorable guitar part.
Bebel Gilberto – Samba Da Bencao (Tanto Tempo): An ultra relaxed number from the heiress to the great sounds of Brazil. Bebel doesn’t just have the bloodline, she has the talent and this is a tropical breeze of a tune.
The Beatles – Hello Goodbye (Magical Mystery Tour): This Paul McCartney penned track may be lyrically meaningless, but it is still one of my favorite Beatle tunes. It is just pure happiness, featuring one of my favorite Ringo Starr performances. His drumming is sparing but perfectly fills in where it needs to be.
A Tribe Called Quest – Jazz (The Low End Theory): For stupid reasons (they weren’t as amazing as De La Soul on first listen), I ignored the Tribe for years. Thankfully, my wife has all their albums and I now realize what I’ve been missing. Q-Tip is now one of my favorite rappers of his era. This a good, not great, Tribe track, with, of course, a nifty jazz horn part.
Fleetwood Mac – Oh Daddy (Rumours): There are so many ubiquitous classic songs on Rumours, it’s nice to hear one that hasn’t been overplayed to death. Christine McVie is as soulful as ever on this slow burner.