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Bray Brothers with Red Cravens

Prairie Bluegrass – 2000 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Mark "Brink" Brinkman

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CDs by Bray Brothers with Red Cravens

In the 1940's, Bill Monroe teamed with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs to form the nucleus of the band that would define bluegrass music. Many bands would form trying to emulate Monroe's sound. Some succeeded to emulate, but others went even further and added their own signature to the music. Frank Wakefield, the Osborne Brothers, and Red Allen were all Midwest bands that expanded bluegrass. Much overlooked are The Bray Brothers with Red Cravens. The recordings here were originally made for WHOW in Clinton, Ill. in 1961-62.

From the bullet-like Scruggs style banjo picking of Harley Bray to the wonderful mandolin picking of Nate Bray, and the powerful lead singing of Red Cravens this is bluegrass through and through. The songs, mostly bluegrass classics including "Blue Eyed Darling," "Toy Heart" and "Stoney Point," bring the listener back to the days when families would gather around the radio in the evenings. The sound quality and mix are excellent given the limitations of one microphone and recording technology of the time. Monroe himself was a fan of the Bray Brothers asking them to be the house band at his own Bean Blossom Jamboree.

Rounder put together a jewelry box of rare bluegrass gems. Sometimes recordings of today get too technical, dissecting every note and in many cases killing the song in the process. These recordings are stripped bare - no bells and whistles, no frills, just straight ahead bluegrass as intended by the Father of bluegrass himself. High, lonesome, powerful, and drivin' or as pure bluegrass fans might say, "the way it should be."