Formed in Washington DC on 4th July 1957, the Country Gentlemen are rightly considered to be one of the greatest bluegrass acts of all time. Unafraid to experiment with contemporary covers and radical arrangements, the band has been on a seemingly endless road trip for the past five decades. From Japanese rock stadiums to wildly drunken hootenanny's in the Virginia mountains, their rich vocal delivery and stunning instrumentation has earned them the respect and admiration of fans the world over.
No one word is big enough to describe the talent of Ricky Skaggs. He was just three years old when the Gentlemen first got together and by the time he was seven he had shared a stage with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. His musical virtuosity has continually astounded audiences ever since. Performances with the likes of Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash as well as multi-million selling albums and singles led to him becoming, at twenty eight, the youngest ever member of the Grand Ole Opry.
For a brief period in the early seventies Skaggs gave up performing. Disillusioned with the state of country music he went off to work for the Virginia Electric Power Company until the Gentlemen's spiritual leader, Charlie Waller persuaded him to return to the stage. Skaggs' brief tenure with the band was one of the most important partnerships in the history of bluegrass. For the first time ever, mainstream audiences, softened up by the Nashville noodlings of Dylan and Gram Parsons, began to pay attention.
This essential collection of material from that period contains some of the Country Gentlemen's finest moments. Covers of songs by Paul Simon and John Prine sit comfortably with some of the most beautifully manic moments in the history of the genre, all to great effect. Bluegrass? I'd legalise it.
By Mark Rogers