Various Artists

The Legend Lives On: A Tribute to Bill Monroe (Audium)

The music presented in this new Bill Monroe tribute CD is terrific. How could it not be, with artists like Ricky Skaggs, John Hartford, Ralph Stanley, Charlie Daniels, Marty Stuart, and others performing the songs of the man who -- over his 60-year career -- influenced them all ? Culled from a concert at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry in April 1997, seven months after Monroe's death at 84, The Legend Lives On contains inspired efforts from everyone who lent a hand to the project.

But is it necessary? Might this CD be strictly for completists? For those wishing to familiarize themselves with the career of the Father of Bluegrass, there are better starting points than this. Considering how Monroe's time as a recording artist stretched over so many years, the curious should have no trouble finding a multi-disc album or boxed set of material by the man himself. Yes, this is a great Monroe tribute, but it's not Bill Monroe.

That said, Legend is nothing short of excellent. Almost every song here -- even Skaggs's rambling version of "Get Up John" (mercifully cut from more than 10 minutes to 5:19) -- is a Sunday punch. But for those seeking an introduction to this behemoth of American music, gathering Monroe's own work is a better way to get acquainted with his greatness.