Bill and John Tell It

A fascinating clip from the film High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music. Bill and John tell it the way it was, occasionally at the same time, but honestly.

 

"The story of bluegrass is the story of Bill Monroe’s musical legacy." So begins this superb 1991 documentary, which frames its historical survey around Monroe, the father of Kentucky bluegrass. As Monroe visits his old Kentucky home, now dilapidated and full of memories, the film traces the emergence of bluegrass from Appalachian descendants of Scotch-Irish settlers, and a variety of bluegrass greats (including narrator Mac Wiseman) offer informative anecdotes, accompanied by evocative archival footage and concert performances from the bluegrass festival circuit. Monroe’s dominance is duly acknowledged, but ample time is devoted to his contemporaries and successors, including the fast-pickin’ duo of Flat & Scruggs, the Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin, and finally Alison Krauss, who passionately defends the music’s acoustic purity. The rise, fall, and consistent revival of bluegrass is thus chronicled through oral history and visual record, resulting in a priceless film that even casual fans are sure to enjoy.  – Jeff Shannon