Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, and The Travelin’ McCourys, who are some of the biggest names in Bluegrass came together to honor Bill Monroe at The Music Center at Strathmore in a program called The Music of Bill Monroe. Peter Rowan referred to Bill Monroe as ‘The Father of Blue Grass.’ Monroe invented the genre which is named after his Blue Grass Boys. It is fitting to have Peter Rowan who played with Bill Monroe in the 1960s, along with Tony Rice – one of the best guitarists in Bluegrass – backed by a band who has bloodlines to the great Del McCoury. The Strathmore concert hall was a perfect venue for the performers to play their acoustic instruments.
The show started with “Long Journey Home.” It was a treat to watch the Travelin’ McCourys and Bill Monroe share the stage. Solos throughout the night by Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Ronnie McCoury on banjo, Jason Carter on fiddle, and Alan Bartram on bass were played with skill and precision. Everyone on the stage was so humble and appreciative of each other. There was no competition, just great music.
All of the performers added vocals but the standouts were the harmonies created between Peter and Ronnie. Before singing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” they dedicated the music to Earl Scruggs who passed away last month. Banjo player Rob McCoury called him the “biggest innovator of the five string banjo.”
Guitarist Tony Rice did not walk on stage until the eight number of the first set. He joined the band for a powerful version of “Old, Old House.” The first set ended strong with “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” and “Cheyenne.” The musicians were treated to the first standing ovation of the night, and after a short break they returned for more.
They started the second set with “Alan Bartram” and continued on for eight more songs. Peter Rowan wore a cowboy hat like Bill Monroe used to wear to start the second set. They also played “Kentucky Waltz” so the Blue Grass State was well represented. I really enjoyed their version of “A Beautiful Life.” They closed the second set with “Salt Creek,” which really showed off Tony Rice’s guitar playing. The musicians received another standing ovation from the very appreciative crowd.
The musicians performed a two-song encore which began with “When the Golden Leaves Begin to Fall” and ended with “Mule Skinner Blues.” The Bluegrass fans gave one final well-deserved standing ovation before the house lights came on. Two Bluegrass legends joining one of the best contemporary Blue Grass bands to play tribute to the man who started it all – well, it was a feast for the ears.
Running Time: Two hours with one short intermission.
The Music of Bill Monroe with Rowan, Rice, McCourys played one night only on April 17, 2012 at the Music Center at The Music Center at Strathmore. To view their upcoming events, check out their calendar.
Watch Peter Rowan & the Travelin’ McCourys play “Cheyenne” by Bill Monroe.
Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys play “Roanoke” (From “The Country Show: with Stars of the Grand Ole Opry” 1955). Bill Monroe: mandolin; Carlos Brock: guitar; Bobby Hicks, Charlie Cline: fiddles; Jackie Phelps: banjo; Ernie Newton: bass.