Honky Tonk Rag
Label: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Those with PhDs in bluegrass instrumentation can rattle off a half-dozen abstruse reasons why the Country Gentlemen were the genre's first "progressive" act. For the rest of us it's all about mood. Before the '60s, bluegrass was primarily high and lonesome, but the Country Gentlemen's debut, featuring the rich baritone of Charlie Waller, sounds more dark and brooding. Who knows -- maybe this had to do with the fact that the group grew up in the coastal lowlands, not the mountains.