Monday, April 09, 2007

255. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Will The Circle Be Unbroken (1972)

Track Listing

1. Grand Ole Opry Song
2. Keep On The Sunny Side
3. Nashville Blues
4. You Are My Flower
5. Precious Jewel
6. Dark As A Dungeon
7. Tennessee Stud
8. Black Mountain Rag
9. Wreck On The Highway
10. End Of The World
11. I Saw The Light
12. Sunny Side Of The Mountain
13. Nine Pound Hammer
14. Losin' You (Might Be The Best Thing Yet)
15. Honky Tonkin'
16. You Don't Know My Mind
17. My Walkin' Shoes
18. Lonesome Fiddle Blues
19. Cannonball Rag
20. Avalanche
21. Flint Hill Special
22. Togary Mountain
23. Earl's Breakdown
24. Orange Blossom Special
25. Wabash Cannonball
26. Lost Highway
27. First Meetin' - Watson, Doc & Merle
28. Way Downtown
29. Down Yonder
30. Pins And Needles (In My Heart)
31. Honky Tonk Blues
32. Sailin' On To Hawaii
33. I'm Thinking Of My Blue Eyes
34. I Am A Pilgrim
35. Wildwood Flower
36. Soldier's Joy
37. Will The Circle Be Unbroken
38. Both Sides Now


Looking at the track listing you can probably tell that this isn't a short album and if you are knowledgeable enough that is is bluegrass. Bluegrass, the very word may turn some of my dear readers away. However this is definitely a great album, not just great but gargantuan, both in terms of size, talent and beauty.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is the nucleus around which gravitate some of the best bluegrass players ever. In the end the album feels more like an encyclopedia of good Bluegrass than an album by a band. The way the album is built is also great, there's a really good alternance between instrumentals and vocal pieces and it starts with a music which represents the old generation of musicians with the Grand Ole Opry Song, referring all those great Country and Bluegrass who passed through it, some of which are in this album and end with a beautiful rendition of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, passing the torch to the new generation. This is more than symbolic seeing as Earl Scruggs son, Randy Scruggs is actually playing that last track here. Just before that the old players go through an apoteotic rendition of Will The Circle Be Unbroken, a song about the cycle of life and death, almost as if ascending to heaven themselves before passing the torch on.

The album is amazing, in its 2 hours it is never tyring, it always keeps your interest, the studio banter between tracks is equally endearing to the players and you kind of get to know them through the album not only as performers but as people. The music is pretty intense as well, with its improvisation, skill and structure matching anything ever done in jazz. If you ever need an album of Bluegrass which pleases both traditionalists and the newer generation this is the album to get. If you think you hate Bluegrass this is the album to get, if you like Deadwood this the album to get cocksukah! Buy it from Amazon UK or US.

Track Highlights

1. Will The Circle Be Unbroken
2. I Am A Pilgrim
3. Nine Pound Hammer
4. Nashville Blues

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Its title comes from a song by Ada R. Habershon (famously re-arranged by A. P. Carter) and reflects how the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was trying to tie together two generations of musicians. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was a young country-rock band with a hippie look. Roy Acuff described them as "a bunch of long-haired West Coast boys." The other players were much older and more famous from the forties, fifties and sixties, primarily as old-time country and bluegrass players. Many had become known to their generation through the Grand Ole Opry. However, with the rise of rock-and-roll,the emergence of the commercial country's slick 'Nashville sound,'and changing tastes in music, their popularity had waned somewhat from their glory years.

Every track on the album was recorded on the first or second take straight to two-track masters, so the takes are raw and unprocessed. Additionally, another tape ran continuously throughout the entire week-long recording session, and captured the dialog between the players. On the final album many of the tracks begin with the musicians discussing how to do the song or who should come in where, and provides a rare insight into the workmanship and approach that these highly-regarded musicians used to make their music, and how they decided to work together.

Originally appearing in 1972 as a three LP album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken was remastered and re-released in 2002 as a two compact disc Set.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band made two subsequent albums, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2 and Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 3, in an attempt to repeat the process with other historically significant musicians, but these subsequent volumes are not as widely acclaimed as the first. Regardless, many consider them to be worthy of hearing over and over again, in their own right.

An updated version of WIll the Circle Be Unbroken, the version on the album is even better:

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