By Art Menius 1990
Bluegrass Gospel and Country by Charlie Cline
Where do you start to talk about someone like Charlie Cline who has spent a lifetime in bluegrass and country music? People have waxed eloquent about stars such as Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Reno & Smiley, Jim & Jesse, and the Stanley Brothers, but how many words have been devoted to the sidemen who made their accomplishments possible? Artists such as Charlie Cline, Joe Stuart, Buck Ryan, Bobby Thompson, Allen Shelton, Josh Graves, Tom Morgan, Ray & Melvin Goins, Paul Williams, Curley Lambert, Marion Sumner, Jody Rainwater, Edd Mayfield, and hundreds more made bluegrass music. They rode in the crammed cars, shared hot dogs and hard cots, put up posters, and missed all too much of the public acclaim. Will their home be in the Hall of Fame?
Just look at Charlie Cline, whose latest solo album, Bluegrass Gospel and Country, you hold in your hands. Tutored on the fiddle by the legendary Opry star Arthur Smith, he began professionally during the early 1950s on banjo in his family band, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, an extraordinary first generation bluegrass band that was sadly underrecorded and underappreciated despite a thirty year career that launched such talents as Larry Richardson and Bobby Osborne. He alternated stints with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers with work for Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers. Between 1952 and 1955 he played fiddle or guitar on no less than eleven Monroe sessions, while often picking banjo on the live shows. On 29 August 1954 Charlie played lead guitar, several years before George Shuffler, on the Stanley session that produced their version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Hard Times.” Just six days later Charlie played one of the triple fiddles on Monroe’s second recording of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” He spent many years playing fiddle and banjo and driving the bus for Jimmy Martin & Sunny Mountain Boys. Ever youthful, the West Virginia native currently resides in Alabama and fiddles for exciting young Rounder artists the Warrior River Boys.
Bluegrass Country and Gospel delivers just what the title promises with many of the selections coming from the more than 300 songs Charlie and his wife have composed. Whether presenting bluegrass, country, or gospel, Charlie holds here to the old time way, putting soul, guts, and feeling ahead of the polish and precision favored by some many younger artists. It’s all straight from the heart of an honest, genuine man whose been the heart of several outstanding bands through three generations of bluegrass musicians.
@CREDO = Art Menius<R>Pittsboro, NC<R>October 1990