Here we are, the first album in this expanded run and it is one that I ended up listening to in early December with my husband whilst building a Lego train. He is doing his own listen through of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die – and I decided to listen to this particular album with him. There was an episode in the brilliant Ken Burns documentary series Country Music which talks about the making of this album and, seeing as I know some of the history of the performers, I was super keen to actually hear them on an album.
To actually hear a track with Mother Maybelle Carter on it? Yes please. After watching that series I ended up in complete awe of this woman. She recorded her vocals and autoharp playing on this album in her early sixties and she has the power she always has. Truly though, so does everyone else on this brilliant artifact of country and bluegrass.
At the time Will The Circle Be Unbroken was being recorded, the world of country music was changing. Many rising stars were a lot more middle class compared to those that came before and more rock and pop influences were beginning to infiltrate and kick out the old guard. The idea of this album was to bridge the gap between these generations and have newer musicians in the more traditional country/bluegrass perform with their idols.
It is such a noble effort and this album stands as a brilliant document of an artform that was losing its popularity and for being a last major push for a number of performers who were entering the twilight of their careers. I know that I got a lot more out of this album because I knew the backstory, but I also kinda like this music anyway.
Hand on heart I can say that, over the course of 105 minutes, I never got bored because of the variety of songs. Some where pure instrumentals showing off the talents of the players, others were covers of classics and then there were newer songs being played by both generations. It’s wonderful to hear the camaraderie and, whilst sequels were made, I can’t imagine anything quite equalling the power of this original.