Sunday, February 17, 2013

Presidents, Rulers and Leaders: McKinley’s Blues

[purchase used on vinyl only]

I knew immediately what song I wanted to post for this week‘s theme. McKinley‘s Blues is a bluegrass classic, notably recorded by Flatt and Scruggs. It is also known as McKinley‘s Gone and White House Blues. But the version heard here is the only one I was willing to consider, and it is not strictly bluegrass, despite the impressive line up of musicians. Norman Blake is the headliner and singer, but Vassar Clements, Sam Bush, and Jethro Burns are all big names. Tut Taylor is not as well known as he once was, but he more than holds his own here on dobro. The ringer is bass player Dave Holland. In 1975, when this song was recorded, and to this day, Dave Holland is known as a jazz musician, and frequently associated with avant garde works at that. But what you have here is seven great musicians stretching out, going beyond the boundaries others have perceived for them. This album came out before the first David Grisman Quintet album, so it can be regarded as the first album in the genre we now call newgrass. In addition to Dave Holland’s presence and work here, listen to especially Vassar Clements’ fiddle lines on this song to hear the then unheard-of meeting of bluegrass and jazz.

In seeking out a purchase link, I was upset to discover that this great album is out of print. It is not currently available at all on CD, and Amazon has only used copies on vinyl to sell. The entire album is well worth having. I dare to hope that this post can help this album become available on disc, or at least mp3.

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