Here's what Event Promotors, Reviewers and Other Artists are saying about Monroe Crossing:
Drew "Drewgrass" Grunseth, Production Director, WHYS Radio 96.3 FM, Eau Claire WI 11/09
I host a weekly bluegrass show called "Smokin’ Grass" on WHYS Radio 96.3 FM out of Eau Claire, WI. I love the sound of Monroe Crossing! If the band is ever passing by or through here, it'd be great to have them come down to the station for an interview and some pickin’.
David McGee, Bluegrass Special, October, 2009 11/09
HEARTACHE & STONE
Bluegrass being music means it knows no boundaries, so hearing some of the finest of its kind coming from the frozen north of Minnesota is unsurprising. Those being introduced to Monroe Crossing via Heartache & Stone will need venture no further into the disc than, oh, the second cut to understand fully why the quintet is newly inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.
This record has more heart than any half dozen other records you’re likely to encounter any time soon, and musicianship on a par with the best of the breed. They can do barnburning, as on a sizzling rendition of lead singer/fiddler Lisa Fuglie’s “Run, Nellie Anna, Run,” with a breathless frenzy and superbly executed, rapid-fire runs by banjo man Benji Flaming and mandolin virtuoso Matt Thompson; they can do balladry with an equally deft and subtle touch, as they demonstrate on the lovely midtempo yearnings expressed in Kathy Liner’s evocative “Coming Home To You,” a fine, heart tugging performance keyed by Fuglie’s emotional vocal and exhilarating instrumental dialogue between Flaming’s banjo and Art Blackburn’s sturdy acoustic guitar runs.
They have an element of surprise going for them too: Stephen Stills’s “4+20” is a certifiable classic of early CS&N lore, and Stills’s own acoustic version is really hard to beat, instrumentally or vocally. But Blackburn finds his way into, through and out of the song on his own terms, not by emulating Stills’s spare, foreboding fingerpicking or haunted vocal, but rather by breaking the song down to a signature, repeating, multi-textured guitar figure, behind which his mates ease in with an appropriately low-key, humming backdrop, as Blackburn tells the story of a life’s hard, desolate road in a sturdy, resolute tenor. Some may miss Stills’s abject, solitary torment, but Blackburn offers a resolute attitude that, despite the lyrical wish for life to cease, suggests a determination to move forward, undaunted by the baggage strewn about his history.
And to tip their hat to a fellow Minnesotan, the gang actually works up a rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain” that picks up steam after the first verse and breaks into a full-on sprint fueled by Flaming’s energetic banjo soloing, Mark Anderson’s clicking-clacking standup bass, and rich, ensemble propulsiveness all down the line. The song still doesn’t make much sense, but considering its source, Monroe Crossing does an admirable job of making it seem coherent. But above all, the band has in Lisa Fuglie a remarkable singer who doesn’t show off a lot of range so much as a lot of feeling, deeply and powerfully so. There’s a bit of Rhonda Vincent in her vocal attack, and some Valerie Smith too (interesting that one of the standout tracks here, “Raven Tresses,” from the pen of Smith’s bandmate Becky Buller, a native Minnesotan herself, finds Fuglie adding smooth harmony support to Blackburn’s foreboding lead vocal), but not so much that she could ever be accused of pilfering another's style. She can hold her own and stand out in a crowd all at once. For one stirring example, check out what she does with her own hymn-like ballad, “Potter’s Field.” Based on an actual incident dating back to 2007, when the remains of 1900 unidentified people were buried in a mass grave in Los Angeles, the song is the proper farewell those forgotten souls were denied, and Fuglie sings it with an admirable balance of reportorial distance that rises in her upper register to palpable sorrow at the unfolding spectacle—“how does one get so forgotten to lie in an unmarked grave in Potter’s Field” she asks in a lyrical passage that pierces us where we live. Fuglie gets way on the inside of any song she sings, whether her own or others’, and above all else, the humanity and the sheer embrace of life she imparts when she sings, makes every song special, a unique journey of its own, and elevates the music of Monroe Crossing to an exalted plane. ~
Rod Hudson, Executive Director, Chilliwack Community Arts Council 11/09
It was indeed our pleasure to have you perform at the Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival this past year. Each year as part of our band lineup I try to find a quality band that our patrons would not likely be familiar with, a “Dark Horse” so to speak. This band is the one that I think will be the big surprise of the festival, the band where the audience members come to me later and say, “Where did you find this band, I’ve never heard them before, they’re excellent.” Monroe Crossing was our “Dark Horse” this past year. I’m sure that you won’t be a dark horse on the West Coast anymore. Our patrons loved your original compositions, your presentation and your musical abilities are outstanding. What the audience doesn’t see or know is what Monroe Crossing is like to work with behind the scenes, what my staff and I have to work with. To that end you were exemplary. You conducted yourselves in a most professional manner and did everything that was expected of you very well without hesitation. Your band was a real treat to work with. I wouldn’t hesitate, and dare say will hire Monroe Crossing in the future.
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Monroe Crossing to any presenter looking for a high quality, entertaining, fun bluegrass band who will really give you your moneys worth.
We wish you and the band all the much deserved success in the future.
Vintage Guitar Magazine 11/09
Monroe Crossing’s laid-back “folkgrass” approach stands in contrast to many contemporary hyperkinetic bands, such as Kentucky Thunder. Their novel, soulful, and musically satisfying cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” demonstrates their unique style.
Louisville Music News 10/09
....This band understands and respects the musical principles laid down by Bill Monroe...."Heartache & Stone" represents their best effort to date....Arrangements are fresh and creative....All in all, it is an enjoyable project loaded with a satisfaction.
Wilson Moore, CHMA-FM “Bluegrass Jam,” Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada 10/09
This is to acknowledge receipt of, and to thank you for, the copy of “Heartache & Stone” you sent to us recently. There certainly is an abundance of interesting original material. Especially noticeable is Lisa's great fiddle work, and the solid instrumentation throughout. Some of the tracks that stand out to me are: “Do You Love An Apple,” “Heartache And Stone” (arrangement), “Run Nellie Run,” “Coming Home To You,” and “Potter's Field.”
Prime Cuts of Bluegrass
DO YOU LOVE AN APPLE
Great song to “bluegrassize.” — David Higgs, WPLN
I like ʹem, but I do love a juicy peach. — Leigh Hill, KUSP
This is a great song. Top 10! — Garry Tilley, WDSL
I really like the way this cut was put together; good job! Please send the completed project to WYSO. Itʹll get airplay. Thanks. — Joe Colvin, WYSO
Very good track. — Rein Wortelboer, Radio Venray
This song has a catchiness about it, and Lisa does a fine job on the singing, and I like Thompsonʹs mandolin break. Fine bluegrass from Minnesota! — Rik James, KGLT
Pick hit! — Paul Osentoski, WMIC
Iʹve played Monroe Crossing on my shows for about the last two years. I like this song. Send entire project for more airplay.. — Paul Morris, WXKQ/WTCW
Yes, I do love apples and love to listen to Monroe Crossing. This is great music and vocals from a band that has obviously worked hard to perfect the sound they produce. Hope you get to the festival in North Platte, Nebraska sometime. Iʹll be dropping your name. — Carl Anthony, KZUM
Great bluegrass here. Starting with a great old song that has been dusted off, adding awesome vocals and some mighty fine pickin’ and you have a winner here. — Charlie Hall, WCYO
A nice catchy tune. — Billy Dunbar, WorldWideBluegrass/KKRF
This song is constructed and presented in a fun and lively way. Good job! — Dave Kline, The Mountain Folk Show
A very pleasant song to listen to. Well done. — Ken Hamilton, WorldWideBluegrass.com
Nice number; sounds a little like old time music. Fine meld of the styles. — Mario Wildner, Radio Dresden
Monroe Crossing always puts on a great show. A little folksy, but definitely good bluegrass. — Joe Wills, WBZC
Another great song from this band. Most appealing is the bandʹs ability to keep a foot in two camps: a touch of old time, with a very modern sound. The lyrics have a strong appeal. — Wayne Bledsoe, KMST
I like this band. They have a unique sound that truly is bluegrass. — Steve Pritchard, CIUT
Good song! Please send full project. — Terry Wood, WTWZ
Brave, creative reworking of this Celtic chestnut. It works nicely. Bluegrass lives in Americaʹs Heartland! — Steve Winters, WSHU/WSUF
Really enjoyable performance. It stands out, and the voices coming in together just added to this recording. — Ben West, WMMT
Fantastic lead vocal! Great playing, very smooth. The band at its best. Great harmonies! — Dan Joseph, CKWR
I like this. — Frank Hoppe, KCSN
Goooood song! — Gracie Muldoon, WorldWideBluegrass.com
Very nice treatment of this old folk war horse as great bluegrass. — Larry Roberts, WGCS
A wonderful arrangement of this song. — Wilson Moore, CHMA
This song might work for this band. Good picking. — Bob Rogers, WIXE
Good! — Tom Reeder, WAMU
This song has a little different sound. Very good instrumentation. — Jim Taylor, WNOI
Great tune, great album, fine group! The expressiveness of the vocals and the arrangement are terrific, not to mention the flawless instrumental work. But the real glory of this cut is the cohesiveness that the band gets in pulling off the feeling during each and every phrase! — Joe Steiner, WLFC
Good song. Strange title. — Larry Robinson, WDCB
Like a wave, this cut has a momentum of its own and is sure to go far. — Maurice Kurtz, Valley FM/ QBN FM
Good response from listeners. Would like more material. — Verlin Sanders, WNVA
Cute, almost folk novelty tune. Upbeat & fun! — Bill Knowlton, WCNY/WUNY/WJNY
This grows on you. Like this. — Carroll Parham, KCLW/KEQX
Great recording! — Jan Hill, WEMC
Well done. Old-timey, yes but this song has an upbeat flow. — Susan Rose, WDVR
Nice old-timey feel. — Darwin Lee Hill, WHVW
Gets better with age. — Al Shusterman, KCBL
Another good one from Monroe Crossing. — Jean Johnson, WorldWideBluegrass.com
Al Shusterman, “Backroads Bluegrass,” KCBL Radio, Sacramento CA 10/09
Monroe Crossing strikes again. ("Heartache & Stone") just yells out, “listen to me, I have something important to say.” From the first song, “Do You Love An Apple,” to the last note of your arrangement of “Purple Rain,” you can’t walk away from listening to this project. Each and every song keeps you wanting more. I can foresee many of your original songs becoming classics somewhere down the line. It is all part of my opening remarks. I think that the band has gotten tighter, and that has helped the overall sound. I played the entire project and received many requests for all of the songs. This is the best project to date. WE LOVED IT.
Joe McKenna, bass player with Abbacadabra 10/09
LOVED your music and bought your new CD. Great to meet you. Next time, next year?
Don Igoe - "Pickin' the Grass" WAPS-FM, Akron OH 09/09
Just a note to let you know that I received my copy of your latest release, "Heartache & Stone." I don't do reviews, but my pick for airplay is "Patience." Anybody who dismisses this song after listening to it once needs to listen to it a second time. Best of luck in all bluegrass endeavors.
Hank Janney - WGTY 09/09
Just a quick note to let you know that the new project "Heartache & Stone" arrived this morning. I have listened to it, reviewed it, and will be starting to share it with my listeners this week. It's an excellent addition to my library.
Jan Dale, Southern Style, PBS FM 106.7, Brighton North Australia 09/09
I was so happy to find a copy of your new album "Heartache & Stone" in my mail box. I am listening to it as I write and it sounds wonderful. My listeners will enjoy it as they enjoyed your others and the interview I made with you at IBMA last year. Many thanks and kind regards.
Mary Anne Moorman, Seattle WA 09/09
It's me, your emcee from Seattle's Wintergrass. Well, I loved you (there) so they just handed me "Heart Ache & Stone" to review for the DJs at KBCS. You are a wonderful group and Lisa's voice just brings it all up right.The best to you all.
Brenda Mathiesen, First Lutheran Church, Battle Lake MN 08/09
Thank you so much again for coming to Battle Lake at First Lutheran Church. We so enjoyed having you all and being blessed with your music. Sunday morning brought a great number of comments about what a great time everyone had, and they would love to do this next year with you all. It was a great starting point to have you in our beautiful new church. We were able to offer praise in a new method, and bring new people to Him! We will certainly be in contact about how things are going. Also, great thanks for all the advice you all had offered in regards to our acoustics and our building. As well, just chats about music and about people. You all made the evening just a joy to be a part of! We shall see you soon!
Antigo Daily Journal 08/09
Picnic, 'Monroe Crossing' a delight
There was simply no way to leave Antigo’s City Park Monday night without a smile on your face. Monroe Crossing, a Minnesota bluegrass band that borrows the last name of the man known as the Father of Bluegrass, the late Bill Monroe, was on the renovated park bandstand for one of the last of the big summer picnics.
And quite a picnic it was. There were about 1,000 people — perhaps more — in the park for the show to dine on Salm Brother’s Co. sausages, which came to Antigo directly from Denmark, some of them delightfully flavored with cheese. Local businesses chipped in to help provide parsley buttered potatoes, cole slaw and just across the lawn, pie and ice cream.
The Salm Brother’s sausages have found a home in Antigo since Nick Salm, a local man, took over the project to restore and expand the bandstand at the park. When it came to providing dinner, he tapped on his sausage-making brothers and the Antigo Optimist Club, an organization he has been active in for decades.
As the heat of the grills was dissipating, Monroe Crossing was preparing to take the new stage. Stressing that they were pleased to be invited to Antigo, and complimenting the community for a number of positive things including the bandstand and park, the night’s action got underway.
Monroe Crossing proved to be a true collection of professionals with an assortment of stringed instruments well-known among the bluegrass music crowd. The band worked its way through a program of the genre’s standards by Flatt & Scruggs, Monroe and an assortment of others. To perform “Dueling Banjos,” the song made famous in the motion picture, “Deliverance,” the band did battle with a banjo and mandolin. There was plenty more as the evening moved on quickly, and only a few people left early. Monroe Crossing played “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” “Mule Skinner Blues,” and closed the evening with the Johnny Cash hit, “Orange Blossom Special.”
It was a special night, indeed for Salm Brother’s sausages, Monroe Crossing, the hundreds and hundreds of people who were in the crowd and the Antigo Optimist Club, which coordinated the event as a fund-raiser for its many projects.
Paula Stamborski, Music Director, Zion Lutheran Church, Oshkosh WI 07/09
Hi Art - Wanted to thank you, Matt, Mark, Lisa and Benji for dedicating "You Are My Sunshine" to me at last night's concert. That meant a lot and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Eddie and I are going to keep an eye on your concert schedule and hopefully we'll be able to get to a concert in the area in the near future. Thanks again for all you folks do to make music enjoyable, memorable and meaningful. You're the best!! God Bless. (P.S., I have my new Monroe Crossing T-Shirt on today!!)
Mike T., Choral Arts Ensemble, Rochester MN 05/09
Thanks for letting us make music with you!
Carolyn Hiller, Executive Director Choral Arts Ensemble, Rochester MN 05/09
Thank you for your performance with the Choral Arts Ensemble in the Rosemary and Meridith Willson Harmony for Mayo Program today. I know those in attendance and those watching the broadcast were entertained and inspired by your collective offering. Bringing quality music to Mayo Clinic staff, patients and visitors in order to enhance the Clinical experience is one of the goals of this program, and your participation is greatly appreciated. We wish you continued success. Thank you for the wonderful performance!
International Alliance for Women in Music Journal, Volume 15, No. 1, 2009, by Joan Devee Dixon, Chair of Music Department, Frostburg State University, Maryland
In the realm of twentieth and twenty-first century classical music, rarely is a new work declared a "masterwork" soon after its premiere. Such is the case, however, with Carol Barnett's The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass. Commissioned by Mike and Kay McCarthy for Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence in 2007, the vibrant work successfully blends the bluegrass band Monroe Crossing with one of America's best choral ensembles. Performances of Barnett's Bluegrass Mass have spread like wildfire across the USA.
The libretto by Marisha Chamberlain is, in and of itself, a treasure. Imagine standard mass movements (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) interspersed with verses of a folk ballad, a Gloria praising God "for feather, fur, for scale and fin," and a Credo affirming "Oh, I do believe a place awaits us far across the Jordan." This is not the text of the Roman Missal! The ballad recounts the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in a manner similar to an Appalachian storyteller. The work begins, "They say God loved the world so dear, He set aside His crown," and ends, "They say God loved the world so dear, She set aside Her crown," leaving some listeners perplexed and others in shock!
The pairing of Chamberlain's texts with Barnett's music makes an inseparable team (imagine Rodgers without Hammerstein). The music uplifts the poetry and interweaves the chorus and band into a masterful patchwork. One might expect simple harmonies and chords from a bluegrass piece for choir, but this is not the case. The harmonies are intricate and the rhythms are complex and, at times, rapid-fire. The Kyrie begins with a fortissimo "Mercy! Mercy!" - far from a quiet, repentant tone. Shifting meters and accented banjo chords propel the music forward. The Sanctus, set entirely in Latin, is anchored by a syncopated soprano/alto ostinato - again, not what one might expect. The musical setting of the opening ballad is expanded between subsequent movements, first adding a female voice and, eventually , the entire chorus. The lyrical and poignant Agnus Dei, sung a cappella, could easily stand on its own (as could several of the movements). Balancing the Agnus is a melancholy instrumental interlude, "Art Thou Weary?"
Hearing the work on the CD, one might not realize the female soloist (narrator) is from the band, not the choir. In true bluegrass style, Lisa Fuglie (lead vocals, fiddle, and mandolin), brings her distinctive voice to the forefront, while sharing the microphone with Mark Anderson (string bass and mandolin), Art Blackburn (vocals and guitar), Benji Fleming (banjo), and Matt Thompson (vocals, fiddle, and mandolin). One can only imagine how much Bill Monroe (the group's namesake) would have enjoyed this ensemble.
The liner notes describe how strange it was for the Monroe Crossing musicians to receive a printed score. They largely learned the piece by rote from MIDI files provided by Barnett. One player's score arrived from Kinko's bound backwards (and he still uses it that way!). Regardless of their discomfort with notated scores, these folk musicians are as finely-tuned as any classically trained ensemble.
Carol Barnett, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is not new to the "choral music scene," working for eight years as the staff composer for Dale Warland. Still, this work has brought her to the forefront of American composers. Her prolific list of compositions is gaining new attention as a result, and rightly so (www.carolbarnett.net). The recording, produced at Studio M, Minnesota Public Radio in Saint Paul, is exceptional. Other recordings by VocalEssence (www.vocalessence.com) and Monroe Crossing (www.monroecrossing.com) can be found online, as can their exhaustive tour itineraries.
As one might expect, this "crossover" piece has attracted an unusual audience, bringing bluegrass musicians to choir concerts and causing choral directors to call upon banjo players. If you have any interest in the American choral or bluegrass scenes, this recording is not to be missed.
Bridget O'Brien, Executive Director, Chestnut Avenue Center for the Arts, Marshfield, WI 04/09
Our audience really loved having your band play here. I’m pretty sure your audience will continue to grow. Thanks for the great show! We’d love to see you return, of course, so don’t hesitate to reserve a date if you know you’ll be through the area again. We’re working on bookings for the coming year & want to be sure to save a date that works for you. I see Monroe Crossing is playing in the Bean Blossom Festival this year---way to go!!!! Have fun!
Josh Anderson, Director of Instrumental Music, Chisago Lakes High School 04/09
Just a quick note to say ‘Thank You’ for allowing the Chisago Lakes Jazz Ensemble to open for you on Friday at Chisago Lake Lutheran Church. It was a great experience for my students to hear a group of professionals performing their craft. I look forward to hearing you all again in the future.
by Hank Beckman, The Naperville Sun 04/09
Music By The People, For The People
A recession can ruin your plans for a vacation, wreak havoc with your 401(k) and make you think twice about that new car you've had your eye on. But it can't stop the Naperville Bluegrass Festival.
Fans of the musical genre started by the late Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys jammed the Holiday Inn Select at 1801 N. Naper Blvd. for the 15th year, braving the heavy rain that turned to wet snow Saturday night to hear their favorite bands playing the music they loved.
National acts including Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Monroe Crossing and Special Consensus helped draw an audience that could also enjoy local groups like Illinois Rail and Jefferson County.
Although most of the bands didn't stray too far from traditional bluegrass/country standards like " "Wabash Cannonball" and "John Henry," some of the material might come as a surprise.
Monroe Crossing's lead vocalist, Lisa Fuglie, offered a soulful rendition of the Etta James classic, "At Last," that had the audience on its feet cheering at its conclusion. "It's all music," Fuglie said afterward. "We even do a version of 'My Girl' by the Temptations."
Amy Hunter, Staples Motley Area Arts Council 03/09
Thanks for a great residency and concert. I have heard SOOOO many wonderful comments about all of it. I also heard you were on WCCO last night so I looked it up online and saw the band and the interviews. Great work. Your guys are awesome. Thanks again.
Joe Stutzman, The Bluegrass Mix 03/09
Just came across your site, love the sound, you guys are awesome. I am DJ WiscJoe from www.bluegrassmix.com. I would love to play some of your music on my shows. I have a Wednesday Morning, 10-12 est. show featuring all bluegrass called "Heartland Bluegrass." Hope to see your act somewhere soon. Keep up the good work.
Helen Be Vier, Loxley Arts Council, Loxley MS 02/09
We really enjoyed having you perform at our Bluegrass in Loxley event. On behalf of the Loxley Arts Council I want to thank you for a great evening. I think I told you I was not a bluegrass fan, but I am now. Your performance was outstanding. We’ll look at our future plans. I don’t know how early we would need to contact you regarding a future date. I am assuming you do the Bell Buckle Cruise as an annual event. Anyway, we’ll keep in touch and again, thanks for a really great show. Say ‘Hi’ to everyone.
Bill Parker, Randy Blakeney Teleproductions 02/09
Your show and performance was one of the best I have ever seen. Your talent and variety is amazing. Please visit us again real soon. I hope you enjoyed our hospitality as much as we enjoyed your visit and music. Your talent is truly amazing.
Marty Scarbrough, KASU FM Program Director 02/09
Thank you again for the outstanding performance you and the rest of Monroe Crossing gave last week in Paragould, Arkansas. Everyone in the band is an absolute professional, and I’ve pointed other groups to you to say ‘this is how you do it right in the world of bluegrass.’...I am so excited that you’ll be back with us again in 2010. There is no higher compliment that a band of your caliber could pay to our concert series than to want to come back and perform again... Thanks again for allowing me to record the show and to broadcast it so that folks who couldn’t be there in person could enjoy it...I hope you and the band have a wonderful 2009, and I’m already anxious to see you in 2010.
Ward Merrill, Executive Director, Backus Community Center, International Falls MN 12/08
Thank you so much for your outstanding performance here on Monday evening! The audience certainly appreciated your fine show and Sloughgrass felt very honored to share the venue with Monroe Crossing. We thank you for being here at Backus and would hope for a return engagement at some time in the future.
Bill Adams, Habitat For Humanity, Waldorf MD 07/08
I want to take this opportunity to say a number of things. We were so honored to have you come here to Grace Brethren Church and help us with a Habitat For Humanity concert.
Everyone who came had the time of their life that evening. Your show was just incredible. I have been playing bluegrass for 37 years and your group is truly one of the freshest and original groups I have experienced. Not only that, your level of musicianship and quality of show is equally impressive. To top off the accolades; the taste your group exhibited was the most enjoyable aspect. I have heard so many groups over the past 4 decades and yours would stand out there with the upper 5%!!!
I was just blown away at the subtleties that each member contributed to each and every number. It was clear that many hours of thought and much discipline was attached to each song performed. Many groups don’t understand the power of holding back and delivering a quality lick or musical idea and the discipline of saving these for just the right moment in just the right song. You seem to have this entirely mastered.
I want to say that we would love to have you back again anytime you are in the area. You seem to just recently be branching out from the northern mid-western area. As time goes on, you will undoubtedly become better known. We will again attempt to advertise for you if we ever have you again in the future.
One last but very important point. I was even more impressed by the quality of people that each individual was to us here at Grace Brethren Church and Habitat For Humanity. From the moment you came until you left, it was just like having best friends or neighbors with us. Your friendliness, humility and personal attention was overwhelming. Rather than demanding how you needed everything to be, you instead became servants to our mission and desires. In the music business, your entire presence was both refreshing and just down right neighborly!
We would recommend you to ANYONE looking for a quality experience for both themselves and the crowd they wish to entertain. Please consider us your friends and we hope to see you again!!! Please say hello to everyone and I’ll look forward to seeing you all personally at IBMA!!!
Matt Merta, Bluegrass Now magazine 06/08
This is the eighth disc release by this Minnesota quintet, and the live recording from Branson, Missouri proves how popular Monroe Crossing is with fans. Rather than showcasing new material, they’ve chosen to perform newer versions of their most-requested selections.
From the opening cut, "Fox on the Run," through the final medley, "Sally Goodin/That’s What I Like about the South," it’s obvious that this is an entertaining band. The performances are tight without being flashy. The two lead singers, guitarist Art Blackburn and fiddler Lisa Fuglie (who does Patsy Cline justice on a bluegrass version of "Crazy") provide tasteful vocals without being ostentatious. Mandolinist Matt Thompson and bassist Mark Anderson add wonderful harmonies, as heard on the Lutheran hymn, "I Love to Tell the Story." Thompson and banjoist Benji Flaming engage in some friendly competition on the classic "Dueling Banjos," which also has some inspiring audience participation.
The generous 17-track collection includes compositions from Bill Monroe, Jim & Jesse, Dolly Parton, Don Gibson, and Becky Buller. It was recorded at Silver Dollar City over a four-day period in May/June 2007. Thompson is a charming emcee and deejays will be pleased to know there is a separate tracking for songs and introductions. Fans love Monroe Crossing and the band does not disappoint on this highly enjoyable album.
Bob Everhart, Tradition Magazine, National Traditional Country Music Assoc, Inc 06/08
I’ve been following the music and career of Monroe Crossing for quite a long time now. I’m on their e-mail mailing list, so I know where they’re going to be almost all the time. Playing Silver Dollar City is certainly a treat. After working for SDC myself for some 25 years, I know what Silver Dollar City is all about. Monroe Crossing and SDC are a pretty good match.
This ‘live’ recording is pretty typical of all ‘live’ recordings. You can tell it is exactly that, but in this case, the sound at SDC is so good, and their technicians mix and balance so well, the instrumentation and vocalizing is just right. Harmony is a great asset of Monroe Crossing, it’s what puts them a step above most of our entire mid-west groups, including the hot ones coming out of Missouri. Their "Dueling Banjos" proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
You probably already know that Art Blackburn is the mover and shaker behind this group. He plays guitar and does lead and harmony vocals; Mark Anderson is on bass with harmony vocals; Benji Flaming on banjo; Matt Thompson on mandolin, 2nd fiddle and harmony; and the lead vocalist, very powerful, and very good is Lisa Fuglie who also plays fiddle and guitar. As a ‘live’ recording you hear a lot of introductions, etc., which is fine, it makes it more real, and in this case excellently done. This is an excellent CD, the audience response to Monroe Crossing is real, and it’s loud. They played(and recorded)in the Riverfront Playhouse, which is quite a large performance center with lots of folks watching the show. I like the banjo, it is such an integral part of bluegrass, and the sound and mix is just right, especially on "The Children Are crying," especially well done.
I have extended an invitation to Monroe Crossing to ‘showcase’ at our festival a number of times. We have to do that mostly because of the incredibly large number of groups and acts that want on. They won’t have to showcase for Silver Dollar City, they are already playing there, but we have lots of talent buyers looking for what they have, so here’s hoping they’ll take me up on that invitation one of these years. Lots of luck to this fine group. This is a FIVE STAR CD, and I am forwarding it to the Rural Roots Music Commission for possible qualification for album of the year.
by Kevin Kerfoot, Bluegrass Music Profiles, May/June 2008 issue
Live From Silver Dollar City
Minnesota’s Monroe Crossing is Lisa Fuglie, vocals, fiddle and guitar; Art Blackburn, vocals and guitar; Mark Anderson, bass and harmony vocals; Matt Thompson, mandolin and harmony vocals; and banjo player Benji Flaming. From "Fox On The Run" to the last notes of "Sally Goodin/That’s What I Like About The South," this is one enjoyable all-request live performance that shows MC’s great vocals and harmonies, thoughtful arrangements and wonderful musicianship. The band is featured wonderfully in the lively instrumental "Nail That Catfish To A Tree." Lisa’s beautiful, strong voice is prominently featured in most numbers including the bluesy "At Last," the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger," and the MC original "The Atlanta Church." Other standout instrumentals include Bill Monroe’s "Scotland" and "Rocky Road Blues." This is great, live traditional bluegrass!
Les McIntyre, Bluegrass Unlimited
Live From Silver Dollar City
This latest recording from Minnesota's Monroe Crossing was recorded before an enthusiastic audience at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., and features more than an hour of music and good-natured banter. As expected, there are the usual crowd pleasers ("Fox On The Run" and "Dueling Banjos"), however there are plenty of special performances including Lisa Fuglie's emotional interpretation of "Crazy" and "At Last." Also included are original pieces such as "The Atlanta Church" and the instrumental number "Nail That Catfish To A Tree." Other noted performances include Becky Buller's "The Rain," as well as "Wayfaring Stranger" and Jim & Jesse's "Just Wondering Why." Some skillful emcee work adds continuity to the proceedings. This CD is indicative of Monroe Crossing's ability to perform before a live audience and is must listening for any serious bluegrass music aficionado.”
Sean McCormick, Ozark Acoustics, KUKU, Willow Springs, MO
Got your CD in the mail yesterday, and I listened to some of it. VERY nice! Sometimes it's hard to get the same quality recording live versus in the studio, but yours is VERY VERY good! Thanks again!
Nancy Guertin, White Bear Area Choral Association 05/08
Where do I begin with my words of thanks to you? It was such a pleasure to work with you again, and to hear your marvelous music. The audiences, and the singers, truly loved this concert.
Thank you for the CDs, and for letting us sing the Gloria with you. What a thrill to hear it all come together. Special thanks for helping us out with your voices and instruments on some of our other songs. It really helped in getting the flavor of the music across.
Thanks most of all, for your kindness and good humor. You're are so easy to work with. The choir, my dad the harmonica guy, and I are most appreciative. I hope to see you on the cruise!
Kerry Dexter, Tallahassee, FL, Dirty Linen magazine 05/08
Two very different aspects of the work of Minnesota bluegrass band Monroe Crossing are showcased in these two recordings. One is a collection of crowd favorite songs recorded over four days of live performance at Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Missouri. The other is a highly structured choral mass setting along with a selection of sacred songs arranged in the same style. One thing they have in common: The members of Monroe Crossing can really sing, and they are fine players as well. If you are expecting a folk sort of mass, or even one with really much bluegrass in it, from "The World Beloved," be prepared for the fact that the music is more choral than that. Interesting, yes, and no doubt a good collaboration for the musicians, but somehow it does not quite reach across the divide from performance to connection with the listener. On "Live From Silver Dollar City," the musicians are immersed in playing live, and it’s a different dimension to their work. Notable cuts include “Fox on the Run,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” and “Nail that Catfish to a Tree.”
Maria Morgan Davis, The Lonesome Road Review 05/08
“Live From Silver Dollar City” by Monroe Crossing
4 stars (out of 5)
In the spring of 2007, Monroe Crossing recorded four days of all-request shows at Branson’s Silver Dollar City. This album collects the cream of the crop, interspersing them with MC and mandolinist Mark Thompson’s slick stage patter to recreate the feeling of the live show. The result is a fine example of bluegrass and classic country Monroe Crossing style – versatile and energetic with a definite Midwestern accent.
They start things off a bracing, folk revivalist “Fox on the Run,” driven by Benji Flaming’s coruscating banjo. Flaming does a convincing impression of Little Richard’s piano, while guitarist Art Blackburn and bassist Mark Anderson lay down a kicking roots rock groove (showing why Bill Monroe is a cross-genre Hall of Famer) on “Rocky Road Blues.”
“20-20 Vision” proves that Monroe Crossing is just as comfortable with traditional grass as they are with the more modern style of Becky Buller’s “The Rain.” The latter boasts simultaneously the best vocal harmonies and the best solo vocal (from fiddler/vocalist Lisa Fuglie) on the album.
Fuglie is just as good on Jim & Jesse’s “Just Wondering Why,” conveying emotional fragility without using the standard technical cheat of breathy vocals. She’s the band’s ace in the hole during many of the “Oh, no, not that one!” moments that come up when a band starts taking requests. “Jolene” shimmers with Fuglie’s raw emotion, terrific trio harmonies, and Flaming’s relentless banjo. On “Crazy,” Fuglie retains that lovely vulnerability without overplaying it, and gets some beautiful mandolin backup from Thompson.
“At Last” (Yes, that one) is a particular fan favorite. Fuglie spins some wicked licks, but the song’s cocktail jazz structure doesn’t suit this or any other bluegrass band.
Earl Taylor’s ‘The Children Are Cryin’” should suit almost any bluegrass band. But, in a bit that may work better live, Thompson explains the bluegrass-specific tension between upbeat melodies and painful lyrics. Then, the band sidesteps the challenge with a parody so broad it would have given the cast of “Hee Haw” a run for their money.
They redeem themselves with a rambunctious canter through Bill Monroe’s “Scotland.” The band’s theme song, “Nail That Catfish to a Tree,” is equally as exciting (with what I’m guessing is Anderson using his doghouse bass as a bodhran), and could be considered an Irish-accented counterpart to “Scotland’s” simulated bagpipes.
In closing, Thompson tells the crowd that Monroe Crossing plays over 130 shows a year. “Live at Silver Dollar City” is a highly entertaining demonstration of why they’re in such high demand.
Len Robinson, WTUF, Thomasville GA 04/08
Just wanted to say hello to you guys — still think the show you did for us at the Cultural Center was one of the best I have ever presented! Looking forward to seeing you guys again next year. Give my best to the rest of the band.
Jonna Gjevre, Uncommon Places blog, jonnagjevre.com
Named for the late bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, bluegrass quintet Monroe Crossing performs some of the most joyful music I’ve ever heard. They played two vibrant sets this evening, combining woeful lyrics with a banjo sound so bouncy, I couldn’t stop smiling. I will confess right now that several songs about heartbreak, abandonment, loneliness, and death had me grinning from ear to ear. That’s bluegrass for you.
The vocalists and upper strings (banjo, mandolin, five-string fiddle and guitar) perform in the old-time style, moving in an intricate dance around a single microphone, while their frenetic bass player hovers on the periphery. And they are so good.
They opened tonight with "Endless Stream of Tears," an up-tempo song with close vocal harmonies and punchy, slap-happy bass. "He’s relentless, and I’m defenseless," sang lead vocalist Lisa Fuglie, "drowning in an endless stream of tears." That was fun.
Benji Flaming, on the 5-string banjo, fostered much of the happy vibe, with a quick three-finger style so mesmerizing and delightful, I forgot I was hearing songs with titles like "The Children are Crying" and "Fox on the Run." Flaming’s banjo added zing to a murder ballad, a song about a hanging, and more than a few cheerful odes to heartless, cheating women.
In the all-request second set, the band members performed several songs with more hopeful lyrics, like the exquisite Etta James classic "At Last" and the gospel standard "Amazing Grace." These featured understated vocals, sparse textures, and slower tempos. Then the tempo picked up again for songs like "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow," as the subject matter returned to grief and loss.
Highlights of the evening: a frenzied banjo solo in Earl Scruggs’ "Ground Speed," a feisty "Orange Blossom Special" virtuoso show-down, and an absolutely lovely performance of the sad-yet-hopeful Bill Monroe song, "The Walls of Time."
I hear her voice out in the darkness
It moans and whispers through the pines
I know it must be her a’callin’
I hear her through the walls of time
Brenda Hough, CBA on the Web Reviews
Live From Silver Dollar City
Monroe Crossing can lay claim to being the most active bluegrass band in Minnesota, and their travels take them all over the country, including a memorable set of performances at the 2007 CBA Grass Valley Festival. Their harmonies are carefully blended and the instrumentation follows the bluegrass tradition with some fine mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar and bass work.
The band members are Art Blackburn: guitar and vocals; Mark Anderson: bass and harmony vocals; Benji Flaming: banjo; Lisa Fuglie: fiddle and vocals; and Matt Thompson: mandolin, fiddle and vocals.
The recordings were made during the band’s performances at the Silver Dollar City in Branson MO, and the enthusiastic audience response is a testament to the band’s appeal and entertaining skills. The song mix is a delightful combination of bluegrass and country songs, and they are even brave enough to play "Fox on the Run." Lisa’s vocals are top-notch and she gives soulful performances of Dolly Parton’s "Jolene" and the Patsy Cline classic, "Crazy." Matt’s crisp mandolin accompaniment highlights the Jim and Jesse McReynolds song “Just Wondering Why” that features the band’s harmony vocals. Matt and Lisa also team up with twin fiddles and some bagpipe inspired tones on Bill Monroe’s “Scotland.” Art performs the lead vocal duties on a rollicking “Rocky Road Blues,” another Bill Monroe tune which isn’t surprising given the band’s name. Another crowd pleaser is Lisa’s bluesy version of Etta James’ “At Last.” Matt calls “Nail That Catfish to a Tree” the band theme song, and it certainly gives the band a chance to show their instrumental prowess. This band has it all – entertaining song selections, excellent musicianship and a contagious enthusiasm that will make bluegrass lovers out of any audience!
Joe Sixpack’s Hillbilly Record Riot Reviews, www.slipcue.com
Live From Silver Dollar City
A nice, laid-back live album from this down-home Minnesota bluegrass crew... This is a jes'-plain-folks, back-porch kind of affair, perfect for fans that like the way acoustic instruments sound, but tune out when it all sounds a bit too slick. Monroe Crossing have put out a bunch of albums on their own, but they're still pretty much those neighbors of yours who got a little carried away with the whole festival thing, and started doing the bluegrass band full-time. You go to all their shows and hoot and holler, both because it's fun and also because you like seeing normal folks like yourself up there onstage. I like the repertoire: these folks tilt towards the Jimmy Martin wing of old-school bluegrass, mixing country tunes like "Crazy," "Oh Lonesome Me" and Dolly Parton's "Jolene" in, along with truegrass oldies from Jim & Jesse, Jimmy Martin and -- of course -- good ol' Bill Monroe. There's a smidge of gospel and, by my count, just one original tune, "The Atlanta Church," written by bassist Mark Anderson. Monroe Crossing aren't super-hotshot pickers or an ultra-professional all-star juggernaut, but that's a big part of their appeal: they are enthusiastic and full of pep, and about as down to earth as a bluegrass band can get. If that's the kind of music you like to hear, this album will be a breath of fresh air.
Val & Jean Pike, Activities Coordinators, Desert Gold RV Resort, Brenda AZ 03/08
Monroe Crossing played for the first time at Desert Gold RV Resort on February 29, 2008. We booked them here upon recommendation of one of our residents who had seen them play in Minnesota. We were so pleased with the quality of the performance that we made it a point to attend the bluegrass festival at Parker, Arizona on March 1st just so we could hear them again. A number of our residents have requested we bring them back next season and we will be contacting Art Blackburn to find a mutually agreeable date. We can truthfully say the caliber of Monroe Crossing compares favorably with those of the nationally known groups Cherryholmes and The Bluegrass Brothers, who have both played here, and we highly recommend you give them a try. You won’t be disappointed!
Darwin Lee Hill, WHVW-AM 03/08
Howdy Art! Thanks for sending along a copy of Monroe Crossing’s "Live From Silver Dollar" CD. Great stuff! Keep up the good work.
Marty Scarbrough, KASU 02/08
Thank you so much for the phenomenal performance you gave in KASU’s Bluegrass Monday concert series this past Monday night in Paragould, Arkansas. Your stage presence and interaction with the audience was outstanding. The vocals were amazing, and your musicianship was absolutely top-notch. I truly believe that you left here with many more fans from Northeast Arkansas. I truly hope that you enjoyed your time with us, and I sincerely hope that our paths cross again in the future. Until then, let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help promote your music or appearances you may have in our region.
Linda Hommes, President, Aitkin Friends of the Arts 02/08
Thank you so much for sharing the music of Monroe Crossing at our Midwinter Night’s Dinner (so appropriately named with the weather conditions on Saturday night). We’ve heard so many wonderful comments about your group, but then you are awesome! I hope to see you again soon in our area. Have a great year in ‘08!
Karen Sonnenblick, President, Southern Wisconsin Bluegrass Music Association
Being the President of SWBMAI, I am embarrassed to say that I saw Monroe Crossing for the first time this past weekend at the Portage Center for the Performing Arts. Can I use the excuse that I have only lived in the Midwest for a short while? They put on a fantastic show. Not only did they display excellent musicianship, they kept the audience captivated with interaction, stories and jokes.
Monroe Crossing played a nice mix of original tunes, traditional bluegrass and gospel numbers. The show was so entertaining that the two children sitting in the front row were bobbing their heads along with the band until they finished the final set which was way past their bedtimes. Fiddler Lisa Fuglie wowed the audience with her phenomenal voice, and 25-year-old Benji Flaming impressed with his excellent banjo rolls. The guitar, banjo and bass player mesmerized the audience with their instrumental talent and their fancy shoes. The band sang beautiful leads and harmonies throughout the entire show.
Monroe Crossing is from Minneapolis and is a SWBMAI member band. They are next scheduled to play in Wisconsin in Appleton on March 8th.
Al Shusterman, KCBL
I really enjoy that new CD from Silver Dollar City. It is out of sight. I just love the intimacy that this one really has. It's wonderful, just wonderful. We're playing the hell out of it, and everybody's enjoyed it.
Marty Scarbrough, KASU
First of all, let me say how fabulous the new Live at Silver Dollar City CD is! After receiving so many of your CDs over the years, it’s been fun to hear your band’s sound grow stronger with every release, and after hearing that live CD, I know without a doubt that our crowd is in for a real treat when you perform here at the end of this month.
Dave Higgs, Nashville Public Radio, Bluegrass Breakdown
Howdy and many thanks for sending us a copy of Monroe Crossing's latest--a fabulous live set from Silver Dollar City. This is one of the most enjoyable live outings I've ever heard--the band is really tight, hard-driving and shines on every track. I can't believe the studio quality of the sound. Everything--even tunes that are part of the standard bluegrass repertoire--sound fresh and exciting. I especially enjoyed "Rocky Road Blues," "The Rain," "That's What I Like About the South," "Oh Lonesome Me" and "Jolene." Would that all live albums sound this good! Thanks again for the great tunes!
Betty Keel, Southern Tour Magazine
Dear Monroe Crossing Group, Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed your music last night at the Thomasville Cultural Center in Thomasville, Georgia. I’m delighted to know that people from Minnesota enjoy Bluegrass music. You guys an gal are great musicians!
By Chris Heth, Bluegrass in the Valley, KNDS
The Spectrum, North Dakota State University
Live From Silver Dollar City
It takes a lot of effort to make a living as a full time bluegrass band in the northern plains, and few understand that effort as well as the members of Monroe Crossing do. This Minnesota-based group has nearly 100 dates already booked for 2008, following up an intensive schedule in 2007. The portion of that schedule, which found them in Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. from May 31 to June 3 resulted in the band’s second live album release, “Live From Silver Dollar City.”
Monroe Crossing is no stranger to the studio, with six studio albums to their credit that keep getting better and better each time. The greatest strength of this group, however, is their live show. Their ability to connect with a crowd within the first few notes of a set cannot be captured in a studio and must really be experienced live. This live album is the next best thing to being at a live show. The band does an excellent job of capturing the crowd’s enjoyment of the show in addition to showcasing the band’s musical prowess.
The songs chosen for this collection were all audience requests and demonstrate an excellent cross section of the band’s potential set lists. The album kicks off with the four-part stacking vocals of “Fox On The Run,” hinting at things to come as each band member gets opportunities to shine collectively and individually. They move smoothly from the traditional hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” into the more contemporary “Jolene” and “Wayfaring Stranger” (both done in fine bluegrass style), then into classic Jimmy Martin with “20-20 Vision.” Other highlights include “Dueling Banjos,” “Rocky Road Blues” and ending with a smoking hot rendition of “Sally Goodin’” and “That’s What I Like About the South.”
The group is led by guitarist Art Blackburn, who provides lead and harmony vocals to compliment his solid and tasteful guitar work. Art is joined by Lisa Fuglie with vocals and fiddle, Matt Thompson with vocals, mandolin and emcee duties, and Mark Anderson with harmony vocals and some of the most animated bass playing ever seen in a bluegrass band. Recently rejoining the group is Benji Flaming, and gifted banjo player and a charter member of Monroe Crossing.
Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms
At the 2008 Yee Haw Junction Bluegrass Festival, Monroe Crossing continued their high quality performance from Thursday. This band, little known outside the Midwest, deserves a national audience and reputation. Their eclectic mix of classic bluegrass and more contemporary sounds combined with high energy and first-rate musicianship should be pleasing to just about any bluegrass aficionado except the most intransigent, hard core traditional bluegrass fan.
At one point they began with commenting that Bill Monroe is a member of five separate music halls of fame, including both bluegrass and rock and roll, and then used "The Rocky Road Blues" to morph through the original to rock-a-billy, a polka, to the blues. This clearly demonstrated the flexibility and versatility of Monroe’s music for today as well as having something to say about Monroe himself.
Benji Flaming on banjo picked Bela Fleck’s "Whitewater" as well as an incredibly sweet and melodious banjo solo in their second set. Despite his very unusual way of holding his banjo, Flaming is a young banjo player very much worth watching. This band is extremely entertaining, engaging the audience with humor, gentle ribbing and banter.
Monroe Crossing does honor to its namesake, dressing in forties-era slacks and the awful painted ties your father used to wear (add a generation or two if you wish), but their music reflects trends and tastes from the thirties until today without seeming forced or mannered. Look for this band and request your local promoter to book them.
Al Shusterman, KCBL 01/08
"LIVE FROM SILVER DOLLAR CITY" is THOROUGHLY ENTERTAINING!!! I am a huge fan of yours, but this project really nailed it. This project gave the group the intimacy that a normal project can’t convey. The song selection was first class. Everything was great. I played the entire project over a 2 week period & received many requests. I know that I will be playing many requests from this project for many weeks to come.
William Randall Beard, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Carol Barnett, "The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass," VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and Monroe Crossing, directed by Philip Brunelle (Clarion)
Barnett manages to honor both the classical choral tradition and the improvisatory impulse of bluegrass music in her contemporary rendition of the mass. Poet Marisha Chamberlain creates lyrics giving each of the sections of the Catholic liturgy (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, etc.) a contemporary interpretation. She also intersperses verses of a bluegrass ballad elucidating a joyful spirituality. In the performances of the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers and the bluegrass band Monroe Crossing, both traditions are in good hands, with formality and jubilance well balanced in this life-affirming celebration.
The second half of the CD features the Ensemble Singers in more familiar repertoire: 10 selections by composers acknowledged by the National Endowment for the Arts in its choral initiative. Works by Ned Rorem and William Bolcom rub elbows with such local luminaries as Libby Larsen, Stephen Paulus, Aaron Jay Kernis and Randall Thompson. It's hard to imagine a more idiomatic performance of this survey of contemporary choral masters.
Jan Dale, Southern Style, PBS FM 106.7 Radio, Australia
Hi folks, Many thanks for sending your excellent album which arrived today. What a great concert, I really like it a lot and wish I had been there. Fortunately I have been able to see you perform several times at IBMA. I shall certainly be featuring the album on my show, Southern Style, here in Australia. It’s all really good but I’m particularly impressed with the great job Lisa does on "Crazy" and "At Last."
Richard Ketterling, Fesler-Lampert Performing Arts Center, Faribault, MN
Art, Just wanted to thank you and rest of the group for a wonderful concert last night. It’s always so nice to see our auditorium so full. I really enjoyed the show and think you’ve got a nice balance of Christmas tunes with your other music. I think that there were probably many people at the concert last night that saw you at the Paradise Center for the Arts and then brought their friends to this concert. Word of mouth is a powerful thing. Best regards to all of you. Thanks for the great tie and tie clip. And after you’re done with this busy tour of Christmas shows, I hope you can catch your breath and have a Merry Christmas yourselves.
Keith Hampton, River Arts, Inc., Prairie du Sac, WI
Dear Art, Mark, Benji, Matt & Lisa:
Thank you for an outstanding show at the River Arts Center. You really connected with our audience.
Laurie Nord, Prime Timers Director, Tracy MN
Dear Art, I am writing to thank you and each of the members of Monroe Crossing for taking the time and making the great effort to bring your group to Tracy for our yearly Prime Timers Dinner, sponsored by Minnwest Bank South. There is no way to truly tell you the impact your group made that evening. I think people were a bit shocked that we were able to enjoy such quality talent in our little town. There were a great many comments about how wonderful the evening was and more than once I heard, "How did you get such a great group to come here?" I consider myself and our bank privileged that you were willing to share your talents with us. Congratulations on your most recent honor of being inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. I hope your rendition of "Purple Rain" was a hit! I know I enjoyed it greatly. Again, my sincere thanks to each of you.
Sarah, Ripples and Reflections Blog
Vocal Essence, an internationally renowned professional choir, visited Calvin College this week as part of their tour around America....and we got to perform with them in their concert, just a few hours ago! ...We got to close the concert by singing Bluegrass Mass with Vocal Essence and Monroe Crossing, a five-piece band, played Bluegrass Mass with us. ...Listening to Monroe Crossing was amazing. The showmanship, the musicianship displayed, the chemistry between the band members, their tightness and ability to sense and just flow so comfortably with each other really impressed me. They sounded like they had been playing together all their lives.
Larry Kuhn, Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival at Grass Valley
In the opinion of many people from every element of the overall bluegrass music scene here, your fine band "stole the show." You guys were immensely popular and successful at our festival this year. And for anybody who hasn't seen Monroe Crossing perform, I will vouch that it's one of the most entertaining, crowd-pleasing acts in the bluegrass music genre at this time.
Carla Skjong, Tyler Arts Council, Tyler, MN 09/07
Dear Monroe Crossing, The Tyler Arts Council in Tyler, Minnesota would like to thank you again for a truly wonderful concert. Our very enthusiastic audience was thrilled, and indeed, as you said, "the old Hall was rockin'!" We highly recommend Monroe Crossing to any group who loves good music. It’s as simple as that. Monroe Crossing is an opportunity to hear the cream of the crop!
Lois Anderson, St John’s Lutheran Church, Maynard, MN 09/07
Dear Monroe Crossing, There are not words enough to thank you for the joy you brought to our "Little Old Church By the Road" on Sunday, September 23rd. When our members talk about you being with us, it is always with a smile on their face and a lilt in their voice. Praying we meet again. God’s blessings to you all.
Jim Fuller, Free State Bluegrass Festival, Canton TX 09/07
We really enjoyed you guys. We talked about you folks all the way home. Thanks again for the CD. We almost wore it out. Just want to make one observation—The Bass man is super. Being a bass picker of ill repute I know a goodun (as we say in Texas) when I see one. I am not sure if he is the best I have ever seen, but I think he may well be the best I have ever shook hands with. Of course all the musicianship is good, but he just did a really good job for my money.
Vicki R Hultine, Senior Pastor, St John Lutheran Church, Waseca, MN 09/07
Dear Art, Benji, Lisa, Mark and Matt,
Just a note to say thank you for the fantastic concert you shared with us on August 22. It was so much fun! The church was just rocking. I’m not sure that I’m all that sorry we had to be indoors. As I go about town people are still stopping me and thanking me for bringing you here. There were so many that had not been in St. John before—what a wonderful introduction and association they have of us now. Thank you.
You are such wonderful musicians. It is such a joy to hear you and watch you perform. I would love to make this an annual event.
It was really fun to hear the feedback from some of my members. One couple I know very well really had fun. The wife couldn’t say enough about how good it was and how she enjoyed it. I’ve never heard her so excited about anything. Then she said, "John was singing! I looked at him and thought, "He never sings in church...and he’s singing! Is this my husband?" You were a hit with that family for sure.
I’m keeping the poster on my office door. I smile when I look at it. I’m looking forward to Jam Camp again next summer and I hope my leadership will agree to bringing you back. Thank you for the CD’s. I sing along with you all the time in my car! God’s blessings on your journeys!
Nate Dungan, Entertainment Supervisor, MN State Fair 09/07
Thank you for bringing such a wonderfully entertaining show to the MN State Fair. I’m glad to hear your fair experience was so positive. I caught a little bit of it myself and was duly impressed by your rapport with the crowd and showmanship. That’s what it’s all about, and you guys know how to do it right.
Becky Wood, Sun-Argus/Gateway Publishing 08/07
Monroe Crossing Wows Spring Valley
SPRING VALLEY WI- Yes, they really are as good as you’ve heard. Monroe Crossing’s performance last Friday night at the Spring Valley Stagehands was one to see. Their precision pickin’, bass slappin’ and tight harmonies left the audience wanting more. And after a standing ovation they came back and amazed us once again.
This was the first time I have heard Monroe Crossing in concert and I was pleasantly surprised. Their performance flowed smoothly from beginning to end. The first set included favorite standards and some original songs. The second set was comprised mainly of well known songs, such as "Rocky Top" that the audience had requested during the intermission.
Monroe Crossing may be the hardest working bluegrass band in the upper Midwest, touring hundreds of days a year. Last Friday they performed music from their most recent release, "Into The Fire." It is about as honest a recording as you can get, recorded live, but with no audience. This collection of one-take tracks doesn’t use multi-tracking or overdubs, so there’s no interference with the group’s pure simplicity and authentic sound.
A striking feature of the band is that it makes full use of its talent. We saw Lisa Fuglie move easily from fiddle to mandolin. Her singing and songwriting is one of the band’s great strengths. And I was amazed by Matt Thompson’s clean, clear, precise mandolin playing and throughout the evening he also played twin fiddles with Lisa. Art Blackburn offered solid flat-picking and fine vocals, and bass player Mark Anderson, who was previously a drummer, was full of energy. Newest member, Benji Flaming’s strong banjo playing sounded great on his Deering banjo.
If you missed Monroe Crossing, go and see them the first chance you get!
Bluegrass Now Magazine 08/07
Into The Fire
Monroe Crossing, a Midwest bluegrass and gospel quintet, derives its name from Bill Monroe and plays old-time, straight ahead, traditional bluegrass. The Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association has honored them with multiple awards including "Bluegrass Album of the Year," "Best Female Vocalist," "Best Guitar Player," "Best Mandolin Player" and "Best Banjo Player." They will be inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in November of this year.
The band consists of Nigeria native, Lisa Fuglie on vocals, fiddle and mandolin. Art Blackburn contributes excellent vocals and guitar, while Matt Thompson supplies solid mandolin and vocals. Benji Flaming adds his exciting brand of banjo, notably on "One Life." Mark Anderson rounds out the group with a solid bass line. I especially enjoyed his slap bass on "The Old Cross Road."
Musical highlights of this all-gospel recording include the exhilarating "He Did Rise," "Get Thee Behind Me" and some impressive, staggered, three-part harmonies on "The Touch of God’s Hand." In short, harmony is a major strength of this group and it is no more apparent than on "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and the energetic original title track.
The project contains excellent covers for Bill Monroe’s "The Old Cross Road," Don Reno’s "Oak Grove Church" and Gillian Welch’s "Orphan Girl." Additionally, the release includes songs from the repertoires of the Louvin Brothers ("Satan’s Jeweled Crown"), The Country Gentlemen ("Standing in the Need of Prayer"), The Dreadful Snakes ("Who’s That Knockin’ At My Door") and the Carter Family ("The Far Side Banks of Jordan"). While the titles may sound familiar, don’t be fooled. The arrangements are new, unique and captivating. Without question, bluegrass gospel enthusiasts will relish this recording.
Mary Jo & Charlie Leet, The True Life Travelers 07/07
Hi Art - I just want to send a BIG Thanks! your way from True Life Travelers!!
You have a great festival there at the Carpenter Nature Center....it is a tremendous cooperative effort and TLT is proud to have been a part of the St Croix Valley Bluegrass Festival!
I have to tell you how much we enjoyed M.C.'s performance on Saturday night!! You guys have got it all and it was an exciting pleasure to watch you work the magic!!
Anyway.....thanks so much for including True Life Travelers in your 2007 St.Croix Valley Bluegrass Festival schedule.........we would welcome an invitation for 2008 or anytime! Thanks!
Dan Servais, Fireball Mail 07/07
"Into the Fire," Monroe Crossing’s second gospel CD is a wonderful collection of the old and the new. This was my first chance to listen to Monroe Crossing and I must admit that the more I listened to it the more it "grew" on me. Recorded "live" with no over dubbing or slick production they achieved the desired effect. I could not hear any foibles or mistakes and they sounded like they were playing right in front of me. While I pay more attention to the music rather than the lyrics, one song in particular, "One Life," rather grabbed me. Like their byline said, "A message of tolerance and a rocking chorus too." Their tempo and harmony are excellent and their mix of songs was a great representation of their talent. If you like gospel, you’ll like this CD. An exciting band, I can’t wait to see them in person!
Dave Higgs, Bluegrass Breakdown, Nashville Public Radio
I have thoroughly enjoyed "Into the Fire," a thoughtful and delightful excursion through the wonderful world of bluegrass gospel music which you all have augmented with a couple of excellent originals, "He Did Rise" and the excellent title track. The harmonies are close and tight, the arrangements interesting and the musicianship simply top-flight. Other highlights for me included "One Life," "A Mother's Last Words to Her Daughter," "Get Thee Behind Me" and "Oak Grove Church."
Thanks again for the great tunes--I'll be doing my best to get the word out in Nashville, in our other syndicated locations and on bluegrasscountry.org.
Les McIntyre, Bluegrass Unlimited 06/07
Monroe Crossing has been one of Minnesota's top bluegrass bands for several years with several recording projects to their credit. This latest venture is a gospel-oriented collection, featuring material from a myriad of sources. The band’s lineup currently consists of Lisa Fuglie (fiddle), Art Blackburn (guitar), Matt Thompson (mandolin), and Mark Anderson (bass). While Lisa’s prime instrument is the fiddle, she occasionally switches to other instruments. She is also featured on most of the lead vocals and contributed the title song. The 15 selections include stirring renditions of "The Touch Of God’s Hand," "Satan's Jeweled Crown," "The Far Side Banks Of Jordan," and "Get Thee Behind Me." "Into the Fire" is bluegrass gospel at its finest and is certain to bring new audiences to Monroe Crossing.
Carol Schultz, Minnesota NAHRO Conference., Brainerd MN 06/07
Hi Art - You and the rest of Monroe Crossing were fabulous in Brainerd! Thanks so much for a great show! I heard wonderful feedback from our conference goers - so much so that I'm going to have a hard time ever topping your group for future conference entertainment. Maybe we can have you again sometime in the future. We'll certainly keep that in mind. I am enjoying the new CD I bought afterwards - It's your first one ("Over the Blue Mountain," I think it's called). Thanks again for a great performance.
Roy Blackman, The Main Street Bluegrass Show 06/07
The two CDs came in today. Some Great Gospel Tunes from "Into The Fire." My favorite is cut #14, "Shut Up In The Mines." And "Somebody Like You" is a cool project. My all-time favorite instrumental is "Maiden's Prayer." Songs like "My Girl" and "Oh Lonesome Me" are what’s making bluegrass music move to center stage. Great Job Monroe Crossing!
Rick Cornish, Almost Daily News, CBA Homepage 06/07
Monroe Crossing pushed some buttons...This year's Emerging Artist Band, headquartered in Wisconsin, was, by nearly all accounts, the right EAB (band) for the right FDF (Father's Day Festival). Most of the fans who approached us raved about the energy, versatility, virtuosity and, of course, lady singer. Holy mackerel what a voice.
Wes Almquist, Westwood Lutheran Church, St Louis Park MN 05/07
Wish you could have heard the comments on the concert...EVERYONE thought it was wonderful, and wished their friends had been there..."When can we get them again?" etc. One comment they all seemed to make was, "They seemed to be enjoying playing for us, made it really fun." ...a lot of great comments from "first time" bluegrassers.
Prime Cuts of Bluegrass
DJ Comments, "Into The Fire"
PRIME CUTS OF BLUEGRASS
DJ Comments, "Into The Fire"
Lisa may have started something. Her song sounds as good as any. It is good to hear her proved that you don’t need millions of dollars to sound good. - Bob Newton, WDAP
Good harmonies. - Wayne Nault, WYKX
Very good track. - Rein Wortelboer, Radio Venray
I’ve already played this and other tracks from this project on my show. Very nice. - Frank Hoppe, KCSN
Good job of writing and singing, Lisa. - Larry Roberts, WGCS
This is fine! - Bill Flagg, WTCC
Great vocals from Lisa and Matt’s mando chops shine above all. All around great album and song. - Matthew Fetterer, WELY
I’ve always liked Monroe Crossing’s material, but this is far and away their best material to date. Great song, excellent singing and inspirational. - Wayne Bledsoe, KUMR
I just discovered (maybe found would be a better word) Monroe Crossing. Put me down as a fan. Well done. - Hank Janney, WGTY
Toe tapping. - Al Shusterman, KCBL
Great! - Ed Stiner, WJFC
I have the project and it is top notch! - Arthur Berman, CITR
They blow out of the north country like a cold north wind and chill your bones with their talent. Keep the fire going, folks. - Billy Dunbar, KKRF/World Wide Bluegrass.com
Fine new song! Send entire project for more radio play! - Paul Morris, WXKQ/WTCW
Super song! - Garry Tilley, WDSL
Nice. Pleasant singing and music. - Graham Hassall, Radio Nightingale
I like it. You should do well with the right promotion. Good luck. - Howard Bonner, CFRC
Very good song. - Dominique Lemarechal, Radio RCF Rivages
Love it! Beautiful tune! Yeah! I’m diggin’ it! - Gracie Muldoon, WorldWideBluegrass.com
Awesome, natural and unique!!! - Stewart Beach, WRHC
Spectacular! - George Fair, Heartland Public Radio
Very interesting opening. I liked this enough to listen several times and sing along with this song! Hope Monroe Crossing crosses my path this festival season. One of the best selections on this Prime Cuts issue! - Joe Wills, WBZC
These folks can hold their own with most. - Carl Solander, WTIP/WRNC
Would like more of their material. - Verlin Sanders, WMMT/WNVA
Good gospel track. I’d like a copy of their full project. - Bill Reno, WMMT
Excellent! Tell Art Blackburn to send me the full CD! - Dusty Owens, TCM Radio
I’ve been listening to Monroe Crossing for some time now and am impressed with their contemporary sound. - Rich Baker, WOSU
Wow! What a great tune! Great performance, with interesting harmony instrumental intro and unique breaks. Nice, varied arrangement. More great stuff from a fine group! - Joe Steiner, WLFC
Ear catching intro and ending. This group has a very pleasing organic wholeness to it. - Steve Winters, WSHU/WSUF
This is really a wonderful track. - Jaap C. de Geus, Origineel FM
Often you can listen to a tune and predict every turn. Not so with "Into The Fire," so sit back, grin and enjoy ... I did. - Maurice Kurtz, Valley FM/QBN FM
This song had airplay on both the Bluegrass Crossroads show on WXLV and the Bluegrass Horizon show on WDVR. - Mike Wuerstle, WXLV/WDVR
Good gospel take on a well known Old Testament tale. It keeps your attention too! - Bill Knowlton, WCNY/WUNY/WJNY
Paul M Youngdahl, DD, Senior Pastor, Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis MN 05/07
Thank you for bringing wonderful music, and a lot of joy, to our Mount Olivet congregation. You shared beautifully the tradition of Bluegrass and Gospel music which our congregation appreciated. I wish for all of you a beautiful and meaningful summer season. Mount Olivet looks forward to having you return to lead us in worship again. God bless you all.
Jim Winger, President, Northern Indiana Bluegrass Association 05/07
Congratulations. NIBGA is fortunate to have you at our Memorial festival. Bring LOTS of CDs.
Bob Everhart, Tradition Magazine, National Traditional Country Music Association, Inc. 04/07
When bluegrass bands get really, really good, they sometimes create and play their music to impress fellow musicians, which often leaves the fans of good old-timey bluegrass somewhere out in the blue azure somewhere, not knowing for sure what kind of music they are listening to. Monroe Crossing, thank goodness isn’t doing that, though they are the very masterful musicians that could be doing that if they so chose to do so. The very “Greek” sounding mandolin beginning of the CD rapidly shifts to traditional bluegrass with “The Touch of God’s Hand.” This is one fine Gospel CD, full of afortiori message, prayer, hope, and certainly salvation. This fine Minnesota group keeps truth, belief, and sharing as their highest aspiration and they reveal all this in a CD that will surely stand high among the bluegrass aficionados that grow larger on a daily basis. They recorded this kind of ‘live’ meaning they did it in one or two takes. No audience to interfere or interject, so it turned out to be a grand experiment that worked quite well. Being a close personal friend of Terry Smith, I am amply impressed with Monroe Crossing’s version of “Far Side Banks of Jordan.” I’ve been aware of Monroe Crossing for a number of years now, and have watched them continue to rise above the fire as opposed to going into it. Art Blackburn is the mover and shaker behind this marvelous group. My how I wish we could have them at our Missouri Valley Festival, but I know in advance that with the festival being a fund raiser for the Pioneer Music Museum and America’s Old Time Country Music inducement, I know as President of the NTCMA I could get them nominated for our annual “Rising Legend” award which takes place on Wed., Aug 29. Wonder if they would be interested in that? Their music is great bluegrass at it’s finest, along with some creative impressions that will take your own mind ‘into the fire.'
Beverly Claflin, Director of Music, Mount Olivet Lutheran Church, Minneapolis MN 04/07
Art - On behalf of the entire congregation, thank you so much for having Monroe Crossing participate at our four worship services this past weekend. We have heard so many positive comments about the music which I trust you heard as well!
As I mentioned on Sunday, I would love for you to return and collaborate with the Senior Choir sometime next spring... I think it would be fun for us to work with you in that fashion and it would certainly be meaningful for the adult choir to make music with the group.
If you think this is something that would be of interest, I would love to get it on the calendar as I know you all book out very far in advance. It would be a great opportunity for us to learn a little about "bluegrass music" in general... It is so good for us to reach out and learn some new things.
Carl Anthony - The Drive-In Radio Show, KZUM 89.3 FM Radio, Lincoln NE 03/07
Hello Monroe Crossing, ("Into The Fire") is your best yet! Precision pickin’, tight harmony’s and from the heart vocals. You’ve truly outdone yourselves and all in one take. That’s totally awesome! Your refreshing bluegrass rendition of a great gospel classic, "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," is outstanding. It’s one of the moments during the CD that takes me back to a little Baptist Church in Western, Nebraska. Keep up the great work.
Philip Nusbaum - Bluegrass Saturday Morning, KBEM 88.5 FM Radio, Minneapolis MN 03/07
Great looking schedule! By the way, I’m really enjoying the first cut on the gospel CD, it’s more than good.
Linda Sandersen - Milwaukee Area Bluegrass Music Association 02/07
Monroe Crossing’s latest CD is "Into The Fire." This album is quickly getting to be one of our favorites. The title cut, Into the Fire, written by Lisa Fuglie, Monroe Crossing’s fiddler and lead singer, is a catchy Gospel tune, with a Middle Eastern flavor. It tells the Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego story. The album has beautiful arrangements of familiar standards and some originals. Lisa Fuglie and Art Blackburn share the lead position well. All of the band’s members are excellent instrumentalists and, as such, get to show off their abilities on this great album. I highly recommend adding it to your collection.
Wayne Howell - KWDF 840 AM Radio, Pineville LA 02/07
Hi Folks, your Gospel Bluegrass is awesome, Top Shelf. I’ve been a Gospel DJ 16 years. Thank you for the beautiful music, my audience loves it. Keep me on your mailing list. I’m also an IBMA member.
Jane Dale - PBS 106.7 FM Radio, Australia 02/07
Thanks for sending this album. I really love it and will be featuring it on my show next week...and in weeks and years to come too, of course.
Brenda Hough - Bluegrass Breakdown, California Bluegrass Association 01/07
I've been listening to the new CD and it's tremendous! Really fine harmonies and incredible mandolin, banjo and guitar. If buying a Lloyd LaPlant guitar and
mandolin will make me sound this good, tell me how to sign up! My favorite is "Into The Fire" and I'll be listening for it when you guys come out to Grass Valley.
Al Shusterman - Backroads Bluegrass, KCBL 91.5 FM Radio, Sacramento CA 01/07
If you enjoy listening to great gospel music then look no farther. As always, Art Blackburn & the members of Monroe Crossing have set the bar higher on their latest project. This CD is not just another gospel project, but the type of project that other groups should aspire to produce. The song selection was excellent. Monroe Crossing always mixes original songs with traditional songs & gives them a new life. The lead & harmony singing are incredibly beautiful. No matter what your mood, just hearing these uplifting gospel songs will just take your worries away & put a smile on your face. The instrumental work is flawless & meshes very well with the songs being sung. People in Sacramento love the old time gospel & it doesn’t get any better than this. While playing the whole CD, my request line kept me so busy I could barely keep up with it. I will continue to play several cuts each week until this CD is played in total again. This CD will be my constant companion for many weeks to come.
P.S.—I read that you will be performing in Grass Valley this year. I hope to finally meet you after all this time!
Nancy Sartor, PulseTC.com
Monroe Crossing may be the hardest working bluegrass band in the upper Midwest, touring hundreds of days a year. Their most recent release, "Into the Fire," is about as honest a recording as you can get, recorded live, but with no audience. This collection of one-take tracks doesn't use multi-tracking or overdubs, so there's no interference with the group's pure simplicity and authentic sound. The result is a clean, infectious blend of upbeat, toe-tapping numbers and soulful, melodic grooves.
Marvin O'Dell - The Grass is Bluer, Classicheartland.com 12/06
I just got the "Into The Fire" CD today. You guys have outdone yourselves. Great performances - great songs! We'll give it lots of airplay beginning this week. Thanks for sending it. I hope you had a great Christmas and that 2007 will be your most prosperous year yet.
Joe Ross 12/06
Into The Fire
Minnesota-based Monroe Crossing is apparently on a schedule to release at least one new album annually. In 2004, we were treated to a live album, "On the Road," and in 2005 we enjoyed "Somebody Like You" and their seasonal project, "The Happy Holidays." The band now has a new banjo player (Jason Ericsson) who joined up in May 2006. The rest of the band remains the same -- Lisa Fuglie (fiddle, mandolin, guitar), Art Blackburn (guitar), Matt Thompson (mandolin) and Mark Anderson (bass). Fuglie and Blackburn handle lead vocals. Matt Thompson is the third voice on trios. Mark Anderson sings bass on the two quartets ("He Did Rise" and "Standing in the Need of Prayer").
Recorded live, with no overdubbing, into a single mic, "Into The Fire" is this hard-working band's seventh album overall (and second all-Gospel project, the other being "Then Sings My Soul."). They selected the songs because these are the ones that move them emotionally, spiritually and/or musically. Repertoire is drawn from Terry Smith, Pat Enright, Gillian Welch, Bill Monroe, Don Reno, Ronnie Bowman, Hazel Houser, and other sources. The title cut, penned by Lisa Fuglie, was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 letter from Birmingham jail that cited the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in support of civil disobedience when confronted with unjust laws. "When those who wield the power say you must do that which goes against our God, don't be afraid, you are not alone. Have faith, even as you go into the fire." One of their audience favorites, Mark Anderson's "He Did Rise," features twin mandolins (Fuglie and Thompson) and the band's quartet on a happy, joyful message celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. The album closes with "Get Thee Behind Me," a lively song from another Minnesota songwriter, Mary Henderson. Besides a few notes about each selection, the CD jacket provides the lyrics for the two originals from band members.
Monroe Crossing has considerable courage to record an entire gospel recording "live in the studio." It's certainly a worthy testament to the band's cohesion, as well as their love of gospel feelings and messages. I commend them for their well-rehearsed sound. Apparently, the band is not presenting their music as part of a ministry. They recognize that the messages can vary among listeners, and their gospel music speaks to all in different ways.
Carroll Parham, KCLW Radio, Stephenville TX 12/06
... Just got your new CD in today...And I just want to tell you I enjoyed it. I played it for the last two hours, and I’ll probably play it for another two hours. ....If you have any more, please fire it to me because I love what you guys are doing. I really appreciate it. I love this CD. "Satan’s Jeweled Crown" is my favorite on there, I must say, but you’ve got other ones on there that are wonderful too, no question about that. Everything’s good on there. Thanks for sending it to me. I appreciate it.
Bluegrass Unlimited 05/06
Just to be clear up front, the "Happy Holiday" we're talking about here is Christmas - not July 4th, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, or the Daytona 500. These are Christmas songs and fairly standard ones: "O Come All Ye Faithful," Christmas Time's A Coming'," "Christmas Time Back Home," and so forth. Monroe Crossing (Art Blackburn, Lisa Fuglie, Matt Thompson, Jeff Whitson, and Mark Anderson) have done a very nice job here, bringing a serious arranging effort to songs that everyone has, for the most part, heard any number of times, if only in the supermarket aisles.
One can only speculate at the interest the bluegrass community might or might not have in yet another recording of most of these songs ("Angels We Have Heard On High," "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear," "Up On The Housetop," "Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem," "Holly Jolly Christmas," etc.), but this seems not to be just a knock-off cash-in-on Christmas effort recorded in those last two hours of studio time the band had already paid for. If you have a yearning for the sounds of Christmas with a bluegrass tinge this year, this is a very well thought out and well-crafted effort. Lisa Fuglie, who handles most of the band's leads, has a wonderful pure vocal delivery that complements these songs nicely. The instrumental support is also creative and tasteful. One nice touch is tagging "Jerusalem Ridge" onto a fairly jazzy version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." It fits very well. The band members also contribute two originals, "Heed His Fathers Call" by Anderson and "The Happy Holidays" by Anderson and Fuglie.
There are a fair number of bluegrass Christmas releases out there already, and the seem to be available on a regular basis, but this release by Monroe Crossing, while not long on new material, is about as good as any I have heard.
Carolyn Hegeler, Fireball Mail, Southern Wisconsin Bluegrass Music Association, Inc. Newsletter
with opening act Jefferson County at Stoughton Opera House, February 25
This last-minute review is to simply sing the praises of Monroe Crossing for a wonderful concert last night at the Stoughton Opera House. It was my second time to the Opera House and the first time I’d heard Monroe Crossing in concert. The Opera House was close to full, it’s a gorgeous space, it has excellent acoustics, and it’s a perfect place to listen to bluegrass music.
Where to begin with Monroe Crossing? In every way, they are shining professionals. Their instrumental prowess, strong lead and harmony vocals, varied repertoire with original songs/tunes, artful arrangements, and their warm and relaxed stage presence all made for a perfect evening of wonderful entertainment.
Their performance flowed smoothly from beginning to end. The first set included favorite standards like “Uncle Pen,” some original songs, and a beautiful Irish song (“The Call And The Answer”), among others. The second set was comprised mainly of well-known songs, such as “Rocky Top” and Alison Krauss’ “When You Say Nothing At All,” that the audience had requested during the intermission.
A striking feature of the band is that it makes full use of its abundance of talent. It was a pleasure to see Lisa Fuglie move so easily from fiddle to mandolin (and even guitar). Her singing and songwriting is one of the band’s great strengths. And I was struck by Matt Thompson’s clean, clear, precise mandolin playing. During the evening, he also played twin fiddles with Lisa, mando/fiddle duets, and, I believe, mandolin duets, all combinations were in play. Art Blackburn offered solid flatpicking and fine vocals, and bass player Mark Anderson was both a vision and earful of liveliness. Newest member Jeff Whitson’s strong, straight-ahead banjo playing sounded great on his old Gibson banjo. One of the evening’s highlights for me was his beautiful solo on the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” in a style that requires effort and creativity from a banjo player. And Art and Matt were right on the money sharing the emcee work, which was humorous, well-timed, and fresh.
At the end of the performance, following a standing ovation, Monroe Crossing graciously invited Jefferson County back on stage for a grande finale of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
If you haven’t heard Monroe Crossing in concert yet, do it the first chance you get!
Linda Sandersen, NEWSLETTER, Milwaukee Area Bluegrass Music Association 03/06
Monroe Crossing, a full-time Minnesota Bluegrass band, entertained a good crowd on Sunday, March 26. Pickin’ Up Speed was the opening band. Monroe crossing was on a tour that had included Independence and Stoughton WI, ending in Milwaukee.
They do a lively show that is very entertaining as well. Their love of Bluegrass and other music styles is evident, as is their overall fun of working together. What they do appears to be more than “just a job.” They like each other as people, so that liking comes across as well.
The audience did a lot of toe-tapping and moving to the music. When you’re on stage and you observe the audience doing that, as they’re smiling, it makes you perform even better. You just know you’re bringing joy.
Art Blackburn and Lisa Fuglie are the lead singers. Their voices blend beautifully. Lisa knows the words to many fiddle tunes too. She sang Sally Goodin. I doubt that any in the audience, myself included, even knew there were words to it. A good time was had by all. They’ll be back.
Brent McHenry, Managing Director, Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton WI
Dear Art, Lisa, Matt, Jeff and Mark of Monroe Crossing,
Thank you so much for the performance at the Stoughton Opera House on February 25, 2006. We are still receiving calls and emails saying how much they enjoyed the show and I’m sure your performance will be reminisced about favorably for months to come. The energy in our Opera House was absolutely magical that evening and your unconditional love for the music was so infectious. We thoroughly enjoyed hosting your band for the performance. It was such a joy and honor to work with such good hearted, honest and professional people, who are also so talented.
As we discussed, we would be honored to have you all back next year, perhaps in the Spring '07. I’m sure we will be contacting you in the near future to work out the details. Best wishes on your future performances and careers!
Bill Ogden - The Bluegrass Special, KETR FM-88.9, Commerce TX 12/05
"The Happy Holidays" is the best Christmas CD I've got in my collection this year, and the best thing you guys have ever done. Thanks!
Tim Lohrmann - KUOI 89.3 FM Radio, Moscow ID 12/05
I received your "The Happy Holidays" album and have been playing it on my KUOI show quite a bit. I played the complete album already and cuts from it several times. My favorite cut is that great instrumental version of AULD LANG SYNE!
Keep up the great work!
Marty Scarbrough - KASU Program Director, Jonesboro AR 12/05
...about your new Christmas CD. It's wonderful! I've been playing at least five or six songs from it on each of my radio shows since I received it, and it will continue to get heavy airplay here on KASU through Christmas.
Thanks for sending the CD, and have a blessed and merry Christmas!
Monroe Crossing is a fine bluegrass band that calls Minnesota home. On their many indie albums, I’ve enjoyed their adventurous and creative approach to acoustic music. Monroe Crossing has kept a fairly constant lineup despite the 2004 departure of banjo-player Graham Sones. Jeff Whitson now plays the five-string in the band that also includes Lisa Fuglie (fiddle, mandolin), Art Blackburn (guitar), Matt Thompson (mandolin, fiddle) and Mark Anderson (bass). All but Jeff sing on this delightful album which celebrates the spirit of sharing seasonal music and joy.
Their 15 songs in the set include an eclectic mixture of traditional, contemporary, and original material. Every holiday album should have some Christmas carols with new, fresh arrangements. Monroe Crossing certainly doesn’t disappoint us in this regard, and an exceptional instrumental take is given to “Angels We Have Heard On High.” The twin mandolins exquisitely breathe new life into this standard carol. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is given an upbeat jazz-like treatment that undergoes a genesis into “Jerusalem Ridge.” When Monroe Crossing takes off on a snappy 4/4 arrangement of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,” it reminded me of the energy one might find in Reno and Smiley’s bluegrass repertoire.
There is some country and bluegrass fare like “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’” and “Christmas Time Back Home.” The latter is attributed to John Duffey. A splendid song for bluegrass arrangement is Johnny Marks’ “Holly Jolly Christmas,” which became a big hit for Burl Ives when he sang it the 1965 movie, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Another winner is their version of “Silver Bells,” which showcases Lisa Fuglie’s breathtaking vocal abilities and Matt Thompson’s engaging mandolin.
To truly emphasize their innovative individualism, Monroe Crossing wisely wrote a couple very special holiday songs for this album, “The Happy Holidays” and “Heed His Father's Call.” The former, written by Mark and Lisa, is a call to lay down burdens, spread good cheer, and connect with traditions during the holidays. Mark Anderson’s “Heed His Father’s Call” provides some deliberation about the sacrifice of God’s only Son for our salvation. Although nicely adorned with four of Nick Wroblewski’s woodcut prints, the CD jacket could have been enhanced by including lyrics for their two originals. They are, however, available on their website. "The Happy Holidays" is a pleasant collection of musical jolliness and merriment that "yule" certainly enjoy. It's an album that will fill your holiday season with plenty of good cheer.
Monroe Crossing is a Minnesota based band with five CDs to their credit. They have won many regional awards and have year-round touring schedule in the Midwest. Their smooth vocals and finely tuned instrumentation follow the "Monroe" tradition, but their talents flow to other genres and styles, and this album is an opportunity for them to showcase some special songs from their concerts. The band consists of Art Blackburn on guitar and vocals, Lisa Fuglie on fiddle and vocals, Matt Thompson on mandolin and vocals, Mark Anderson on bass and Jeff Whitson on banjo. Lisa Fuglie weaves her vocal talents around a gentle DeDanann tune, "The Call and the Answer" and an Etta James classic jazz tune, "At Last." These two tunes are worth the cost of the whole album, but Lisa also plays fiddle and mandolin and adds fine harmonies to most of the other songs. The selection includes some Bill Monroe classics and "Maiden's Prayer," an instrumental made popular by Bob Wills. Matt Thompson's mandolin playing is featured in a spirited version of the film classic, " Never On Sunday." The group pulls out all the stops with their bluegrass version of the Temptations' "My Girl" which is popular wedding request. Their recordings were produced at the "Precision Powerhouse," a great business name and an apt description for this band from the North Country.
Somebody Like You
Lisa Fuglie makes a strong and jazzy vocal statement with the Etta James' classic, "At Last," when this disc starts to spin. You immediately realize that Monroe Crossing is no ordinary bluegrass band. In fact, their fifth release is chock full of musical references to other genres too (some Greek influences in "Never on Sunday", a little country in "Rose of my Heart" and "Oh Lonesome Me," a little Motown soul in "My Girl," Celtic flavors in "The Call and the Answer"). Bluegrass is still this band's foundation, but more and more, I've come to appreciate their solid multi-dimensional music as Americana, rooted in tradition but with many branches into other territories.
Monroe Crossing hails from Minnesota, and bands outside Appalachia often take more adventurous tacks as they sail musical waters. Somewhat of a concept album, "Somebody Like You" concentrates on love songs. Mixing instrumentals ("Never on Sunday" and the western swingy "Maiden's Prayer") with plenty of vocal numbers, the thematic result is a set with slower to moderate tempos than typically found on your usual bluegrass album. But, then again, this entertaining band seems to be breaking more and more out of the bluegrass mold. When they cover Bill Monroe's "My Little Georgia Rose" and "Rocky Road Blues," their arrangements end up more subtle and indirect, than high and lonesome as the Father of Bluegrass did them. Unlike Jim and Jesse McReynolds' version, "Just Wondering Why" has a visceral and effective quality with a different type of emotional impact than the original. Blackburn's self-penned title cut is a longing to find just the right person for life's journey.
Monroe Crossing has kept fairly constant in their personnel lineup although banjo-player Graham Sones has moved on, and Jeff Whitson has been picking the five-string with them since 2004. From Clarksville, Arkansas, Jeff performed with Eversong since the 1990s. The other members are Lisa Fuglie (fiddle, mandolin, guitar), Art Blackburn (guitar), Matt Thompson (mandolin, fiddle) and Mark Anderson (bass).
Monroe Crossing always seems to have surprises up their sleeves. They are able to present their own eclectic interests with plenty of thrills to enthuse a crowd. In the past, I've said this band can be a bit hard to peg or categorize. They've found a way to walk the line between various genres and earn the respect from many corners of the music community. Their 2003 album, "The Green Mossy Ground" was a Minnesota Music Academy (MMA) award winner for "Best Bluegrass/Old-Time Recording." They were also the only bluegrass band ever nominated by the MMA as "Artist of the Year."
Individually, the band members bring an experience base from many musical walks of life ranging from rock, blues and bluegrass bands. The total package is a compelling set with a distinctive stamp.
Marvin O'Dell - The Grass is Bluer, Classicheartland.com 07/05
I received your new CD "Somebody Like You" yesterday and listened to it last night. I just want you to know what an excellent CD this is!
You guys did a wonderful job with the less-than-bluegrass songs. If these songs had never been heard any other way, folks would assume they are bluegrass standards. I appreciate how you arranged them in such a way that they didn't come out sounding like "newgrass."
This is a wonderful mix of songs. It captures the listener's ear throughout because of the mood changes from song to song and never releases the listener's attention.
Monroe Crossing is an amazingly talented and tasteful group. I still tell folks that you're the best independent bluegrass band out there.
Thanks for sending me the CD. We'll get in our mix right away.
Matt Schuyler (Johnny Timewarp) - Dark Side of the Highway, WFCS 107.7 FM, New Britain CT 07/05
Thank you so very much for the excellent promo CD you recently sent of your latest album "Somebody Like You". The covers of "At Last" and "My Girl" were killer. I will be spotlighting the album during one of my upcoming shows.
Once again, thanks for the CD and for keeping the music alive...
Found on the web at http://www.antimusic.com/roadtrip/05/mo/ 07/05
So Silver Dollar City's Annual "Bluegrass & BBQ" was and easy choice. Bluegrass entertainers were playing on several stages simultaneously, and my ears were caught by Monroe Crossing. The four piece featuring three guys and a gal reeled off a great set of bluegrass standards and also lent their acoustic sound to a few contemporary songs.
Al Shusterman - Backroads Bluegrass, KCBL, Sacramento CA 07/05
Thank you for selecting me and Backroads Bluegrass as a bluegrass friendly radio station worthy of receiving this cd.I had to play it twice in order to fully absorb this wonderful project.
As always the vocals & the instrumental work were excellent but you really struck paydirt with your song selection. I just couldn't believe it!! That is why I had to play it twice. Starting off with "At Last", WOW!!! Then several songs later "My Girl", & "Oh Lonesome Me". Interspersed between those songs was Maiden's Prayer, My Little Georgia Rose, & Rocky Road Blues. Are you trying to give me a heart attack? And to wrap it up "Never On Sunday". I love that song, & have never heard it played with anything but a mandolin. Great job. I also love the way the bass had 3 solos within the project. Very nice touch. You have my vote!!!
I played the entire project for my listeners, & my request line was busy while it was playing. Based on their requests I will be playing several cuts each week until the project is played in total again.Thank you for sharing your fine project with us.
Jacques Dufour - Rockin'Boy Saloon Show, Radio Lyon, France 03/05
I don't remember if I have written to you a few weeks back becvause I have had some troubles with my machine, but I want to let you know that I have greatly appreciated your album "on the road" that you have sent me at my radio station. Great bluegrass music, traditional and fine versions of old chestnuts. Great musicianship. I will play ALL the tunes all along the season. We air on the net every sunday 2 pm Nashville time on : www.lyonpremiere.com
Best regards from France
Darlene Hapka, Heritage Singers 10/04
I so enjoyed singing with Monroe Crossing last fall. Im a member of the White Bear Area Choral Association (Alto). Hope you can do it again sometime. I wish it would have worked out to be in the Grammy Awards. Anyway, thanks for offering this CD to us. God Bless.
Tom Hintz, owner, Tom's Garage, Appleton WI 09/04
Hey find something near us in Wisconsin. Myself and everyone else at the (Tom's Garage) show in Aug. are anxiously awaiting Crossing's return. I don't remember if I emailed you but I want to thank you again for such a great show. Thanks.
Mike Gregory, Banjo Player, Banjo Maker, Milwaukee WI 09/04
If I may quote Mr Wrigley and Mr Fleer, "Buy GUM!" By gum, those people can crank out the tunes. Which is why I never describe myself as a bluegrass musician. I do what I do, and greatly enjoy doing it, but not to the standards of musical excellence obvious on your CD.
Larry Gorrell, Dean, School of the Arts, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota 09/04
Last Friday was such a delightful day thanks to Monroe Crossing. The grade school performance was informative, educational and fun. I couldn't believe how engaged 250 fourth graders could be. Feedback from the evening performance was very positive. It was a great way to open our season. Please extend my personal thanks to the entire Monroe Crossing Company (including the kids!) Not only are you all great performers, you are wonderful people as well.
Jim Feese, Father of the Bride, Edina MN 09/04
We would like to thank you and all the band members for your part in making the day of Bob and Lisa's wedding a tremendous success. Your group made lots of new converts and the CDs were spread across the country. Sandie and I anticipate looking in on one of your concerts from time to time and if the occasion ever arises, we'd be proud to use you again.
John Andrus, Missouri River Bluegrass Festival & Bluegrass Camp 08/04
...thanks again for doing our camp and festival. It was a wonderful four days and Monroe Crossing did an outstanding job of teaching and performing. I hope the rest of your time in North Dakota went as well for you... Thank you again for your professionalism and your leadership in the bluegrass community. Could be we'll get up to see you in Brainerd this fall.
Chris A., Father of the Bride, Shoreview MN 08/04
.....we just have some special "Thank You's" for EACH of you for the WONDERFUL PERFORMANCE all of you put your Musical Souls into and shared with our guests that night!!!!!!! We LOVE YOUR MUSIC.....(and it's WONDERFUL to be told how EXCELLENT our taste in musical groups is...over, and over, and over again)!!! MONROE CROSSING MADE THE RECEPTION AND DANCE A WONDERFUL, SWEET, MUSICALLY FANTASTIC EVENING!!! EVERY SINGLE GUEST WE TALKED WITH LOVED YOUR MUSIC, PERFORMANCE, SPIRIT, HUMOR, MUSICIANSHIP, VOCALS...EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT THE GROUP!!! We are SO PROUD TO KNOW YOU ALL, and to have had the chance to expose this large of a group to your WONDERFUL MUSIC....and SO THRILLED with all the EXCELLENT COMMENTS from friends and family and EVEN THE STAFF AT THE COMMUNITY CENTER!! One of the bartenders said it was "the Best and Funnest wedding dance he'd ever worked at!!" Everyone had fun ALL NIGHT and the music was "THE BEST!" I just HAD to reply by telling him you'd be at the Bluegrass Festival and when it would be, as well as telling him to check your website for your performance schedule! ;-)
Clyde Scott - BluegrassRadio.org 08/04
Thanks for sending the latest CD ("On The Road") from your group.. I have it in the computer system and will feature cuts from it during the 6:30 til 7:00 PM block starting today.. GOOD STUFF..!!
Judy Thompson, Wells Fargo Family Farm Festival, Minnesota Zoo 08/04
You guys just did a fabulous job. Again, we really enjoyed having you as part of the Family Farm Festival. Attendance was huge... Again, thank you so much to everyone, all the musicians, they were just fabulous. I know I will be in touch with you regarding next years event.
Fred Keller, Whistlepig Stringband 08/04
We were all talking on Sunday about what a great time we had at the Lakes Bluegrass Fest...and we spent a lot of time talking about you guys. Ross, Chris, Joel and I want to thank you for all the kind words, support and encouragement you extended to us specifically and to the bluegrass community in general. I can't tell you enough how wonderful it is for the cream of the crop to spend time offering insights, meaningful criticism, and the wealth of your experience to relative newbies like us. We have such a great deal to learn about performing and you guys set such a great example. We truly appreciate it and I know the audience does as well. Heck, when you guys mentioned us on Friday after our first set, not only did that feel great to us but it taught us another invaluable lesson--it made us ask the question (sadly, not until yesterday over beers) why didn't we do that for the other group before us? Plus, you conveyed this message to us (without even intending to convey the message) in a positive way... Anyway, it's another tip we'll be incorporating into our show. Thanks again for not only being some of the hottest pickers and performers going but for being some of the most positive, professional and encouraging people we have had the pleasure to meet in music. If there's ever anything we can do for you folks, let us know--we truly consider ourselves in your debt.
Dave Higgs - Bluegrass Breakdown, Nashville Public Radio 07/04
Howdy and many thanks for sending us a copy of your latest CD ("On The Road"), a true live spectacular including some killer tunes, imaginative arrangements and some unforgettable collaborations with the Heritage Singers. I thought you all did just a stellar job on "Walls Of Time," "Blake's March," and "Who's Gonna Show Your Pretty Little Feet." And the 2 cuts with the Heritage Singers are just spine-tingling. I've never heard anything quite like that before-and you're right, when the singers come in on the third verse of "Friendship's Road," I get chills from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Thanks again for another wonderful project. And, did I mention-for coming up with absolutely the coolest logo in Bluegrass! I'll be doing my best to help get the word out.
Lee Bolton - WOBO 88.7 FM Radio, Norwood OH 07/04
Thanks for the ("On The Road") CD. Featured it today and the listeners really like it, so I guess it will be getting quite a bit of airplay here.
Al Shusterman - Backroads Bluegrass, KCBL Radio, Sacramento CA 07/04
I am going to charge you for a new CD player. This CD was "so hot" that when I turned on my CD player & the music started, smoke came out and completely disintegrated my player. This CD has all the bells & whistles of a first class production; beautiful singing, flawless instrumental work, & superb song selection. A majority of the songs on this CD are wonderful classics which unfortunately aren't heard too much anymore. Thanks for keeping the tradition alive. This material is relative to what is going on in the world today as well as what has happened in the past. If you listen very closely you can tell that Monroe Crossing has their own distinctive sound. Their music comes straight from the heart, & you can sense it immediately. I played this CD several times at home before taking it into the studio. I just couldn't get enough of that wonderful music. The intensity of their singing and playing is amazing. While playing the entire CD,. I received many requests to play all of these songs again. I am as anxious as my listeners to hear all these songs again. I can hardly wait for your next project!! Thank you very much for sharing your fine project with us.
Wendy Freshman, Minnesota History Center 07/04
Thank you for your phenomenal music! What a truly memorable evening at the History Center for all involved with people of all ages enjoying your wonderful toe-tapping rhythms and participating in the square dancing! I'm delighted we were finally able to get Monroe Crossing on the Nine Nights schedule and I'll look forward to working with all of you in the near future. All the best and again, many thanks for a great show!
Jim Whitney, Editor, Twin Cities Acoustic Music Calendar 07/04
Tuesday I caught Monroe Crossing at Northrop Plaza for the noon hour. I've written many times about MC since I go to most of their shows in the Twin Cities metro, so I won't go into a lot of detail. When they kicked off the set my first impression was, as always, "These guys are SO GOOD!". MC is the class of Upper Midwest bluegrass. No one else is as polished, as tight as Art, Matt, Lisa, Graham, and Mark. The folks sitting around the steamy quad, dodging the scorching sun, were treated to truly professionally presented music. And they responded, with the whoops and hollers I was hoping for. Incredible musicians, great show.
Cary Allen Fields - Fields of Bluegrass, WICR, Indianapolis IN 07/04
The new ("On The Road") CD sounds absolutely marvelous! I'll begin working it into the playlist this week. I am amazed at your appearance schedule! You keep this up and you'll soon be known as "the hardest working band in bluegrass" if you aren't careful.
Matt Klemetson, Ulen Community Concerts, Ulen MN 07/04
I just wanted to thank you and the rest of the band again for your great concert in Ulen last week. I have heard nothing but great praise on your performance from people that were in attendance. The main concern being expressed to me is when can we get you back again, so that is just great. Ill be in touch in the future hope you had a safe trip home.
Keith Henderson, Editor - River's Edge magazine, Bismarck ND 07/04
I saw Monroe Crossing at the Cross Ranch Festival a couple weeks back. You guys were great! I bought your live CD. It's a great primer for me on Bluegrass.
Shirley & Dennis Henderson, Eversong Bluegrass Band - Bluegrass Gospel Drive, KWXT Radio, Russellville AR 07/04
Just wanted to tell you again how much we enjoyed pickin' and visitin' with all of you. By the way, your website is GREAT - do you maintain it yourself? I'm preparing Monday night's gospel radio program and will feature a couple of your songs. Thanks for the newest CD--you people really have it together. And sign us up for your newsletter (when do you have time to do all this?). We hope to see you "on the road". Blessings to you!!
Carl "Anthony" Marino - The Drive-In Radio Show, KZUM Radio, Lincoln NE 07/04
Wow! Great music from your live CD "On The Road." Y'all are sounding great!! Thanks again, hope to catch up with you on the road somewhere, I'm keepin' an eye on your schedule.
Leonard Stacy - Suwannee Valley Bluegrass Show, WDJY Radio, Branford FL 07/04
Thanking you for your CD there that we got in the mail there. It's a real good CD an' I've been playin' it on the radio. Like I said, I appreciate the CD that you just sent called "On The Road," and we've been playin' it on the air. Thank you.
chat room posting, http://www.christianforums.com 07/04
Bluegrass is in my blood. I grew up 20 miles from Bean Blossom, Indiana where Bill Monroe held his annual festival. I learned to pick there, learned to appreciate the music there, and now that I am 800 miles north of there, I still love it. There is no musical medium better than bluegrass to get the toes tapping, good thoughts flowing, energizing the soul and mind, keeping family interaction alive, and on and on. I won't even try to mention all the good groups there out there, but you cant go wrong with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, IIIrd Time Out, Lonesome River Band, and Monroe Crossing for good bluegrass, and for good gospel.
Pastor Cynthia L Ray, Edgecumbe Presbyterian, St Paul MN 06/04
On behalf of the members of Edgecumbe Presbyterian Church, I want to thank you for your fine performance at our 3rd Backyard Bluegrass Concert. The talents of your group members were appreciated by our congregation and I have heard many accolades from our guests who attended the concert. All total, we raised $_____ for our Habitat for Humanity house in St Paul. We're planning to play your CD as we work on the house next month.
Lee Ryan, Parks and Recreation Director, City of Buffalo MN 06/04
Just wanted to thank you for putting on a great show last night. Not only was the group talented, but very friendly too! I hope you had as good of a time as the audience did! ...it was cool that there was such a variety of ages and types of people there last night, all enjoying the show. Just wanted to pass on how happy everyone seemed to be, and that we look forward to seeing you again next year.
Nick Larson, Blue Wolf Bluegrass Band 06/04
Great show on Saturday...I consider you guys the standard in this state for good bluegrass.
Leo Kuiper, Archer Community Concerts, Archer IA 04/04
Just a note to let you know we all enjoyed your performance at Archer very much. I have not heard a single negative comment...and we are extremely pleased with our association with all the Monroe Crossing group. Thank you for being willing to come to our small town of Archer. It has been a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
Joe Ross - staff writer, Bluegrass Now, freelance writer, Bluegrass Unlimited 04/04
I recently got (Monroe Crossing's) album ("The Green Mossy Ground") for review. There's plenty here to thrill their fans as they continue to break out of the regional band category and into a national spotlight.
Kenny Dawsey - Bluegrass Works 03/04
The "Green Mossy Ground" is the third CD from one of Minnesota's busiest bluegrass bands. Monroe Crossing is a five member unit comprised of Lisa Fuglie (fiddle), Art Blackburn (guitar), Graham Sones (banjo), Matt Thompson (mandolin) and Mark Anderson (bass), the same instrumentation Bill Monroe used in his now classic band of 1946. This CD displays not only these five musicians' skill with their respective instruments, but also their ability to produce a pleasing vocal sound. The selection of material reflects their ability to cover different musical styles effectively.
The "Green Mossy Ground," an original song by fiddle player and vocalist Lisa Fuglie, gives us an example of the quality original material Monroe Crossing has to offer. This ballad of love and death is reminiscent of the old murder ballads. Though a recent composition, the song has an old-time feel to it. "Eight Good Years" is another interesting original piece, penned by guitarist and band leader Art Blackburn. This song tells of a love that has reached a crossroads and declares the journey so far has been good. However, the lovers question whether to continue the shared path or go seperate ways. The song is well written and could easily cross genre lines.
The first of the two gospel songs is a nearly two hundred year old Lutheran hymn. "I Love to Tell the Story" showcases both Fuglie's fine singing voice as well as the band's tight harmonies. As with several other songs on the project, the band uses instrumental harmony techniques during the instrumental leads with excellent results. The Pete Wernick tune "Tequila Mockingbird" features banjo player Graham Sones. Sones is an outstanding banjo player and he really shines on this tune.
One highlight of this CD is "Just Because of You," written by Fuglie and Anderson...they were both members of "The Deadly Nightshade Family Singers" before joining Monroe Crossing. "Just Because of You" is an upbeat honky tonk swing (tune) that not only features the fine vocals...but is an intricately arranged song that gives the whole band a chance to strut its stuff.
Featured on Aubrey Haynie's Bill Monroe tribute, "Leavin' Rosine" is mandolin player Matt Thompson. With this tune, as well as all the others on the CD, you will find that Thompson is quite adept on mandolin. All of his leads and fill ins are most tasteful.
In closing, I would give this CD a thumbs up. It is just what you would expect from a talented band with two previous CDs under their belt. They put forth their best effort, and have produced a terrific bluegrass recording. Their hard work has paid off.
Robert C Buckingham - Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine
Monroe Crossing is a traditional band with liquid-smooth vocals and much-better-than average picking. Lisa Fuglie provides strong vocals and good fiddle. Art Blackburn's smooth vocals also predominate on this project. ...The harmonies are sweet and on the money. This project is swollen with sweetness and even the hard-driving material manages only to sound fast, as in "This Morning At Nine." That they brought nearly half of the material to the project speaks well of their creativity. They have no lack of that, and do use it to their advantage. This band should find a great following among those who are not too rustic in their tastes, or who do not want to wander too far into the mountains of old bluegrass. While they have drawn their music from some older sources, Monroe Crossing manages to keep things upbeat and contemporary.
Jeanie Wyttenbach, Cabin Fever Bluegrass Band 03/04
Was so great to see you guys Saturday nite!!! What a wonderful evening!! There's nothing I'd rather do than sit back and listen and watch you guys perform for an evening!!! I mean it!!!! Your stage presence just amazes me!! You all interact so wonderfully and are so comfortable with one another!! You're such an inspiration!!! So a great big thanks for such a fun evening!!!!
Katy Ryan, Department of Veterans Affairs, Minneapolis MN 02/04
On behalf of the patients at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to the members of Monroe Crossing for the February 11, 2004 concert performed here at the Medical Center at part of the week-long observance of the National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. Your upbeat personalities and incredible music lifted many spirits and was greatly enjoyed by all in attendance. We certainly hope to see you again in the future. Thank you for sharing your time and talents with our nation's heroes, the U.S. veterans!
Cecilia Rolando, Northern Lakes Arts Association, Ely MN 02/04
I sure enjoyed the concert...it was a marvelous musical experience for all of us there. Each of you sure brings a great deal to the performance, making for an exceptionally fine combination of sound. Thank you again.
Bob Everhart - Traditions Magazine 01/04
Monroe Crossing is one of Minnesota's premier bluegrass bands. (the "Green Mossy Ground") is their third CD behind the driving force of Art Blackburn, who sings lead vocals and plays guitar. With him on this fine piece of bluegrass music is Lisa Fuglie, also on lead vocals and fiddle; Matt Thompson on vocals, mandolin and fiddle; Graham Sones on banjo is the most solid on his instrument; and Mark Anderson on bass and vocals. A full-fledged bluegrass band that will be acquiring some national recognition in the not too distant future. As tight as they are I'm surprised they are not already on the 'play' list of IBMA. It's very obvious they have worked hard on their songs, their vocals and fine interpretations of various styles, especially on mandolin is very nice. "Leavin' Rosine" is an especially good 'shine' number for all the lead instruments. Rosine must be Kentucky. James Monroe has asked Sheila and I to be on his festival in Rosine next year to do some Bill & Charley Monroe tunes, when they were known as the Monroe Brothers. Whatever it's worth, Rosine would be an excellent 'showcase' for Monroe Crossing. We're hoping to have James Monroe on our festival in 2004, and we also hope there might be a way to have Monroe Crossing... At any rate, here is one fine bluegrass CD from one of Minnesota's quite obviously best bluegrass bands. Try to get their CD, even better, try to see them in concert. Great!
Hedley Charles - Coastal FM Radio, Tasmania 01/04
Many thanks for the copy of the "Green Mossy Ground." I was more than pleasantly surprised at the total consistently high quality of the material on the release; a well-balanced selection of tempos; instrumentals and Country Gospel tracks.
Jacques Dufour - Radio Lyon, France 01/04
I have received the "Green Mossy Ground," played it and liked it! Excellent bluegrass album, well diversified in rhythms and with three strong instrumentals. Fine picking, vocals and harmonies. A good production. A work well done! Great fast version of "Why Did You Wander." On my playlist.
Carl "Anthony" Marino - The Drive-In Radio Show, KZUM, Lincoln NE
I have a copy of the "Green Mossy Ground!" It's great, love to hear more.
Michele Johnson, President, WBACA 12/03
On behalf of all the members of White Bear Area Choral Assoc, we wish to THANK all members of Monroe Crossing for being our guest artist for our fall concert. Our concert was a huge success and a great musical experience. You all were just the greatest to work with. We all feel we have made new friends and really hope to work again with you in the near future. THANKS AGAIN for a wonderful musical experience!!!
Cindy Hagel, President, Sheyenne Fine Arts Association 11/03
Thanks, again for coming to Lisbon and giving us a great show. Hope you had a good trip back and hope we can have you back again sometime soon.
Paul Hendrickson, Director, White Bear Area Choral Association 11/03
Great to work with you!
Mike Mathes, Jumpin' Jambalaya Jamfest 10/03
Nice work on your "Green Mossy Ground" CD. Purchased a copy and love it like all the rest of your stuff. Keep up the good work. I keep seeing your schedule and looks like you guys are keeping busy. We talk highly of your band wherever we go. You folks do such a fine job.
Carol Nurmi, Rochester Community & Technical College 10/03
Hi Art and all the other fine musicians of the Monroe Crossing Group. I have heard many positive, close to raving, statements as to how great Monroe Crossing is - from your abilities as musicians to the way you interact with each other and the audience. So, stay warm over the winter and we'll be sure to find a date that works for next year.
Bob Douglas, Sunday Evening Concert Series, Shoreview MN 10/03
Congratulations on the Minnesota Music award. Your (the "Green Mossy Ground") CD deserved it.
Sandy Quam - Bluegrass Express, KSER, Vashon WA 10/03
Hey, We've received (the "Green Mossy Ground")...just gave it a good listen tonight, and really enjoyed the whole project. Vocals were wonderful!! Great selections of tunes. Can't wait to air it!
Al Shusterman - Backroads Bluegrass, KCBL, Sacramento CA 10/03
("Then Sings My Soul") is not just another gospel project, it is the cd that all bands should aspire to. Monroe Crossing sets the bar higher on every project & they exceed it easily. I just love the way Monroe Crossing mixed traditional gospel songs, original material, & somewhat obscure songs giving them new life. The lead, harmony and quartet singing were incredibly beautiful. No matter what your mood, just hearing this wonderful CD takes your worries away, & puts a smile on your face. People in Sacramento love the old time gospel sound, and it doesn't get any better than this project.
Dave Higgs - Bluegrass Breakdown, WPLN, Brentwood, TN 10/03
I am thoroughly enjoying "Across the Blue Mountains" and "Then Sings My Soul." It kind of scares me--the thought that but for your kindness I would probably never had heard these projects which would have been tragic given the greatness of the music contained therein. Again, you all have forged your own compelling sound, have just concocted some stellar arrangements and unearthed and/or created some amazing tunes. I especially liked your takes on "Two Men A Prayin'", "Annabelle" and "Tallahassee" and you all have some truly outstanding originals in "Patience," "Friendship's Road" and "Frog." The gospel CD is also quite nice--my favorites were "Wings of An Angel," "The Atlanta Church" and your
gorgeous "A Child's Prayer." Great stuff! As always, I'll do my best to try and get the word out. Thanks again!
A good new release from... Monroe Crossing is the "Green Mossy Ground." It features superb picking and tight harmonies. All the elements of a good Bluegrass recording.
Barb Darland, Sacred Heart Music Center, Duluth MN 10/03
You are absolutely super-duper fantastic! Your energy and talent were appreciated by all of us last night at Sacred Heart Music Center. I was completely serious about your recording in our space too. The resonance you achieved was amazing! I'm looking forward to our next performance together! Thank you for being so flexible & being part of KUMD's live broadcast--it really gave a great push for our attendance. We had a great time and enjoyed your music a ton! You're DEFINITELY on our return list.
Brenda Hough - Northern California Bluegrass Society
Monroe Crossing takes its name from the father of bluegrass so it's not a surprise that the band is in the traditional camp of bluegrass. The album (The "Green Mossy Ground") opens with a spirited version of "This Morning At Nine" from the early days of the Country Gentlemen. Another barn burner is the Osborne Brothers' song "Listening to the Rain." The marvelous blending of instrumental sounds, particularly the mandolin and fiddle is further shown in their rendition of Aubrey Haynie's "Leavin' Rosine" tribute to Bill Monroe. Matt Thompson's mandolin chop is strong and clear throughout the songs and his leads are matched and embellished by Lisa Fuglie's fiddle. Art Blackburn has a chance to showcase his vibrant guitar flatpicking in a tribute to another flatpicker, "Blake's March." Graham Sones is the new banjo player in the band and his mastery of the five string is shown in his fast picking of Pete Wernick's "Tequila Mockingbird." But a bluegrass band does not thrive on instrumentals alone. With Art and Lisa providing the lead vocals, the band has a tremendous vocal variety. The outstanding harmonies on the gospel "The Rain" and "I Love To Tell The Story" are crystalline perfect. Tim O'Brien's "The Sweetest Song I Sing" has the pure harmonies and exact instrumentation that make this the highlight of the album. An album with something for everyone on every song!
We've discovered a new group from Minnesota that delivers Bluegrass in their own inimitable fashion. This third album from Monroe Crossing (the "Green Mossy Ground") is filled with thirteen great cuts ranging from love songs, death songs, cheatin' songs, gospel tunes, instrumentals with drive and (always) a good Bill Monroe number. They have been delighting audiences with their performances and now you have the opportunity to hear them on this CD.
Dave Higgs - Bluegrass Breakdown, WPLN, Brentwood, TN 09/03
Howdy and many thanks for sending us a copy of your stellar new outing, the "Green Mossy Ground," which I have thoroughly enjoyed. You all show great imagination in your arrangements, a flair for coming up with wonderful tunes and, of course, some superb musicianship. I especially enjoyed "Leavin' Rosine," "Blake's March" (it really swings!), "Eight Good Years," "The Rain" and the title track. I'll be doing my best to help spread the word here in Nashville and in our other syndicated outlets. Thanks again!
Dale Reed - Country Recollections/Bluegrass, KRMO, Monett MO 09/03
I think the "Green Mossy Ground" is a wonderful CD and we'll be playing it a lot on Saturday mornings. Keep up the good work. I think you've got a good project going there. Thank you.
Cary Allen Fields - Fields of Bluegrass, WICR, Indianapolis IN 09/03
Hey, good people of Monroe Crossing! The "Green Mossy Ground" arrived in the mail yesterday and sounds great. It's always nice to hear some straight-up grass that isn't "bluegrass lite" or "elevator grass!" The tree won't grow if you rip the roots out of the ground, right? You scored major points with me by covering Pete Wernick and Norman Blake compositions, as well! I'll be working your music into the playlist starting this Saturday.
Karl Leukert - KCGS Christian Radio, Marshall AR 09/03
I got your CD, the "Green Mossy Ground." It's awesome! It's wonderful! Especially the gospel bluegrass songs.
Pat Feit, Elk River Area Arts Festival/ArtSoup 09/03
Dear Monroe Crossing, Thank you! Thank you! For being the opener for (Elk River's) ArtSoup this year. Your group is awesome, and it was a perfect programming choice for kicking off a festival! Your vibrance, your harmony, your sense of ensemble & your obvious love of what you do makes you very dynamic and special! A future concert in our series would be great fun and well received! Thanks again.
Pastor John Peshek, First Lutheran Church, Alexandria MN 09/03
The Verdict on Monroe Crossing!!!??? I thought they were absolutely astounding. What a wonderful worship service that was. I don't think anyone could have possibly left that service without a smile on their face.
Bruce Bernhart, String Fever Bluegrass Band 09/03
Your shows at Ski Gull (Lakes Bluegrass Festival) were fantastic and all I could think about while I was sitting there is that you guys were FAR superior to anyone else there, and in fact, Monroe Crossing in my mind is now the best bluegrass band in the state of Minnesota and quite possibly the entire upper Midwest. I hope you are looking beyond Minnesota. The rest of the Midwest, and for that matter, the rest of the country should know about you. I try to catch bands in other major cities while I'm travelling around and I have only heard one or two that I thought were of your caliber. Your CD should be getting national airplay. There are lots of potential fans out there waiting to hear you guys. I'm just one voice, but if your dream is to go national I think it's right there for you. You've put together one hellava band.
Robin H Mathis - WCPC, Houston MS 09/03
Thank you for the two CDs that you sent, "Then Sings My Soul" and "Across the Blue Mountains." They are fantastic quality...and we will be playing them for a looong time into the future.
Bob W Dunn - Nuttin' But Bluegrass, WDBX, Harrisburg IL
This being our 'Fall Pledge Drive,' I was asked by the station manager to play the very best and most often requested music, and your material (the "Green Mossy Ground") fit that category. Want to once again thank you for all your help in making sure we do get the best of Bluegrass and Gospel music.
Wilson Moore - Bluegrass Jam, CHMA, New Brunswick, Canada 09/03
Thanks for the promo copy of the "Green Mossy Ground." Some good stuff here!
Cary Allen Fields - Fields of Bluegrass, WICR, Indianapolis IN 09/03
"Then Sings My Soul" arrived today and sounds great. I like the song selection, you really have a feel for what the folks enjoy. I can tell you've had some experience with audiences. I must say, with my last name, (the song "He Will Set Your Fields on Fire") really made me nervous!
Red Shipley - Stained Glass Bluegrass, WAMU, Washington D.C. 09/03
Hello Minnesota, thank you for the copy of your new CD (the "Green Mossy Ground"). Love the Becky Buller song ("The Rain") and the old hymn ("I Love to Tell the Story"). Both are being played on "Stained Glass Bluegrass." Also enjoyed your gospel project ("Then Sings My Soul").
Marvin O'Dell - Bluegrass Express, KCSN, Northridge, CA 09/03
Hi, Art. I received the "Green Mossy Ground" CD. Thanks for sending it. You guys are putting out some of the finest bluegrass music anywhere. I featured the CD a couple of weeks ago, and I'll be giving it a lot more play. I love it! I appreciate the fact that it's 'bluegrass', not 'newgrass.' We make no apology for being solidly a bluegrass program. Your music fits in perfectly. I always look forward to new music from you because I know when I see your name on it, it's going to be quality material. Heck, I'm still playing from your duo album with Sandi Scott ("The Flame in My Heart") because it's just great music. Thanks again.
Al Shusterman - Backroads Bluegrass, KCBL, Sacramento CA 09/03
If you are looking for straight ahead bluegrass music, then look no farther because (the "Green Mossy Ground") is the real deal. In your liner notes, you should have this warning included; If you have high blood pressure or heart problems, don't play this CD because it will take your breath away. The vocals, both lead and harmony, were excellent. Their fervor & enthusiasm in their voices as they sang each song sent chills down your spine. The song selection couldn't have been better. I enjoyed the original material as well as the few traditional songs on this project. Hearing this CD once was not enough. It needs to be played several times in order to fully appreciate the combination of their fine voices & the great lyrics to each song. Needless to say, the audience response for this CD was overwhelming. While playing the entire CD, my request line never stopped ringing. The instrumental work as well as the backup playing were just great. Each time you play this CD you find out what you missed the last time you heard it. The interest in this project is very high. I hope I don't wear this CD out. Thank you for sharing your fine project with us.
Cary Allen Fields - Fields of Bluegrass, WICR, Indianapolis IN 09/03
I've listened to your CD, the "Green Mossy Ground," quite a bit this week, which says good things about how it has grown on me. I have TONS of projects to listen to all the time... There is a very cohesive overall sound to the project and there are many good things to be said about both the vocal and instrumental work. The engineer(s) did a quality job on the mix, as well. Kudos to Mark and Zac. The title track has turned out to be my personal favorite. I like Lisa's voice a whole lot, "I Love To Tell The Story" will be featured in the gospel set in the next couple of weeks, too. In fact, I don't think there is a track on here that won't eventually make it into the program in the months ahead. Of course, your singing rocks too, Art! Everyone gets a good blend.
Wanda Erickson, Pioneer Work/Pioneer Art Festival 08/03
People are still talking about the wonderful music...many comments were still being heard two weeks following the (Pioneer Work/Pioneer Art Festival) evidencing the quality and timeliness of the music... We couldn't have picked a better group of people to work with. Your professional manner and quality performance was unbeatable. Thanks for working with us, and for being understanding of our unique needs... Monroe Crossing helped us draw people to our celebration that otherwise would not have come. We had just a great day! Thanks again for all you did to make this such a worthwhile venture.
Rake Magazine 07/03
Watch out 'N Sync, this hit factory is on its way up. They're the 'No Doubt' of bluegrass, complete with a slew of top hits (on the Old Time Music charts, that is) and the all-guys & one-gal lineup. While you'll never catch Gwen Stefani with a fiddle, this gal Lisa Fuglie can really light it up. Monroe Crossing is Minnesota's premier bluegrass outfit. If you want to experience the definition of jamming, check these guys out.
Tammy Makram - Executive Director, Council for Arts & Humanities in Rock County 05/03
Yesterday was a fantastic day for us! It was by far the best event that we've held at the Palace in many years. I heard nothing but positive comments and many requests to have you return to Luverne as soon as possible. I know you won't have any trouble in selling the place out when your band does return. Thank you for all your patience in putting this concert together. You are absolutely wonderful performers and wonderful people to work with, as well. We look forward to your next performance at the Historic Palace Theatre.
Jim Burroughs, The Historic Paramount Theatre, Austin MN 05/03
Great Show! Can't wait to see the (video) tapes.
Jerry Loughney, Above the Town
Dear Lisa, I trust you and Monroe Crossing had a safe trip back to Minnesota. It was a real treat to hear Monroe Crossing this weekend. The hard drive, great instrumentals and outstanding harmonies made for an unbelievable show. Above the Town was very happy to share the stage with you all. ...Again, great show this weekend and hope to run into you folks sometime soon. Take care and keep warm.
Mike Mathes, Jumpin' Jambalaya Jamfest
Art........THANKS SO MUCH for your persistence in getting us to bring you to Wisconsin and our Jamfest. These are a few thoughts I would like you to share with the band, but would also be happy if you wished to include them on your web page in the comments section. To you and your wonderful band of musicians, I offer a heartfelt thanks and congratulations. Your music and your genuineness spoke volumes to all of us affiliated with the Jumpin' Jambalaya Jamfest. WOW! We all knew when we hired Monroe Crossing that our fans would be in for a tremendous treat. Still, we were overwhelmed by your performance. I fully expect that Monroe Crossing will be on the stage of the Grand Ol' Opry some day. Your talents are monumental, but your most endearing quality is the band's cohesiveness. Your use of the Bill Monroe "single mic" system offers entertainment in the true traditions of bluegrass and allows you to showcase individual talents within the band setting. An unmistakable chemistry flows between the members of your group and pays wonderful dividends for the audience. Whether the song was slow and soulful or lightning fast, Monroe Crossing drew rave reviews from our Jamfest audience. Your performance left us with little to do but dance our soles thin and clap our hands raw. We all went home smiling, happier, and richer for the opportunity to have seen one of the truly fine acts in today's bluegrass scene. We can't wait to hear your next recording! P.S. We will work hard to get you back again!
Robin Williams, Robin & Linda Williams 01/03
I enjoyed the CD....They did a good version of (the title track) "Across the Blue Mountains"....We do it a cappella and I never thought of it as a bluegrass song. But it works great in their hands. They really did a good job.
Pete Wernick 12/02
I enjoyed the CD ("Then Sings My Soul")...The tone is excellent. The band sounds confident and together both instrumentally and in harmonies, and the cross-picked mandolin is a real standout.
Mary Lou Werner, Celebrate Art! Celebrate Coffee! Festival 10/02
Thanks for you willingness to participate in our festival this year...the comments were all very positive. We have absolutely no complaints and hope you will be able to join us at a future festival. We thought your group was particularly professional in your music as well as in your appearance. There was a nice blend of voices and instruments and your performance moved very smoothly. Even those vendors who could not come to the bleachers appreciated listening to your fine music.
Lina Belar, Perham Pioneer Festival 09/02
Once again I want to thank you so much for your wonderful performance at the Pioneer Festival 2002. I hope you enjoyed being there as much as people enjoyed hearing you. We hope to see you again next year.
Sue Edwards, Tina & Lena 09/02
WOW! What can I say but, "WOW!" You were fabulous yesterday at the Grape Stomp. Everyone loved you. One line you could use somewhere that has rung true for me every time I have heard you is, "Once you sit down and listen and watch Monroe Crossing, you just can't get up and walk away - the only way you can go home is when they stop...and they go home." ...You are magnetic. There is a comfort and happiness that happens when you watch all of you interact... and then when you play, it's sooo incredibly exciting. You've got everything it takes to just get bigger and bigger. YES! ...Thanks for a great afternoon yesterday!!!! YOU ARE AWESOME!
Carol Ford, Milan Arts School Concert Series 09/02
I was sitting in the back selling coffee and brownies, so I was able to see the whole thing before me and it was soul satisfying. Everything I'd hoped for and more--as far as the crowd, their appreciation of the music and the danged good time had by all. To see the musicians recharged by the audience's delight, to watch good friends dancing their legs off, to know that many people there were attending their first art school event and first concert at the town hall--it all warms the heart some considerable...I think folks here are delighted with the success of the event...Not every band could have taken that audience for the fun ride you gave 'em, which makes my task of developing an acoustic series in that hall much easier. This is exactly what I hoped would happen and I needed a really great performance by a talented band to make it so.
Marvin O'Dell - Bluegrass Express, KCSN, Northridge CA. 09/02
I've been playing from your recent album "Across the Blue Mountains" ever since it came out - one of the best bluegrass releases of last year, by the way...You guys are putting out quality bluegrass music, and I can't wait to introduce this gospel material ("Then Sings My Soul"). Thanks again.
Margery Swanson, Secretary, PCAC, Pine City MN 08/02
The Pine City Arts Council would like to thank you for your contribution towards making this annual arts fest in Robinson Park a success. We heard many compliments from the exhibitors and the Pine City area people. You were very professional and easy to deal with.
Jeffrey Carver, Carver Marketing Concepts, Ltd 07/02
Just a quick note to tell you how much I appreciated Monroe Crossing's performance the other night at the US Sporting Clay Championships. My client, Jack Daniels Bourbon, as you know, was thrilled at your music...which obviously is very important to me! As I mentioned to you, I really did my research on this one and your group was head and shoulders above the rest. You are all tremendous musicians and it was wonderful to hear you play. In addition, your band members were friendly, accommodating and a pleasure to get to know. I look forward to hiring Monroe Crossing again for my next event. Take care and thanks again!
Becky Buller, Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike 06/02
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed "Then Sings My Soul." You guys did a great job! And Lisa's voice was just perfect for the lead on "Wings Of An Angel" Very, very nice! And the front cover!! Guys, I'm so honored. Thanks again and again and again!
Loreta Simonet, Curtis & Loretta 06/02
After hearing you at the (MBOTMA) Kickoff Saturday, I just had to email and tell you that you guys sound MARVELOUS! You sound so polished. Curtis & I were talking about Monroe Crossing on the way home. We both agreed, you have it ALL together....great picking, great vocals, great arrangements, and great marketing. We're most impressed.
Brother Bill Kaul - Bluegrass Saturday, WXPR, Rhinelander WI 06/02
Thank you so much for sending your latest CD "Then Sings My Soul." It's a wonderful collection of gospel songs. Keep up the promotion of Bluegrass music.
Lynn Healey - The Bluegrass Connection
This CD ("Across the Blue Mountains") displays American roots music that mixes the talents of five musicians who are collectively versed in old-time, folk, bluegrass, and contemporary acoustic music. The diversities are balanced by an important factor: the understanding of driving, effective rhythm on the parts of all the musicians.
The band name "Monroe Crossing" honors Bill Monroe...and signifies the members' individual approaches and interpretations of the music. The resulting blend is solidly grounded yet notably upscale and modern.
From the opening cut, one feels immediate respect for this group. They are highly competent and obviously well rehearsed. Upon continued listening, the members' individual personalities blossom. For example, Lisa Fuglie's authentic old-time influence becomes more apparent, as does Art Blackburn's brilliantly complex yet simple guitar style. The group presents worthy songwriting talents...These originals are sandwiched between a generous helping of traditional tunes accented by slices of non-traditional treatment,...a couple of Bill Monroe classics...and a Gillian Welch favorite ("Annabelle").
On this CD, Monroe Crossing's creatively cohesive arrangements abound with an added sprinkling of delightfully unexpected harmonies. The instrumental portions are tastefully clean and refreshing, the vocals smooth and polished.
The band hails from Minneapolis, MN and if they have not been featured on Minnesota-based "A Prairie Home Companion," they surely ought to be. Their music seems to come from Anywhere, USA and should be heard everywhere in the USA.
Bob Everhart - Tradition Magazine 04/02
It's my day. I just love traditional bluegrass and this fine band... is the best I've heard in quite a long time. This is a really fine polished tight band that quite obviously likes each other very much. On ("Across the Blue Mountains") you can hear their warmth and devotion...Very very nice interchange between the musicians.
Art plays guitar and vocals (and nice tasty licks every one); Benji Flaming on banjo and bass vocals (mixed just right for me...); Mark Anderson on bass (...traditional bluegrass without the 'jazz' that is happening in a lot of younger groups today); Lisa Fuglie on fiddle and vocals (...a voice...up high among all the good female singers...); Matt Thompson on mandolin and vocals with fiddle too (just like Monroe would have liked it, the push is there, but not so strong that it envelopes the other players, especially on "Rain Was Turning Into Snow," thank you for sharing Matt).
What a nice name these folks have for their band. Bill Monroe was such an influencing factor in this music, it's no wonder so many of us still hold the way he plays it as the 'master.' Monroe Crossing is sure welcome at our festival anytime.
Patty Wetterling, Millstream Arts Festival 01/02
I really enjoyed working with Monroe Crossing for the Millstream Arts Festival. Your high energy, exceptional talent was a wonderful addition to the festival and drew festival goers towards the stage. Thank you so much. I was personally grateful for the assistance with the sound system as well....I wanted you to know that it was a real treat to have you participate in the festival. Thanks again.
Rob Davidson - QBN-FM, Braidwood, New South Wales, Australia
"Across the Blue Mountians" is great stuff. We don't hear a lot of Bluegrass in Australia. I truly love this CD...and I will be putting track to air on a rotational basis over the coming months. I think your music is great.
Terri Skelton, Executive Director, Harmony for Mayo 12/01
Thank you for your wonderful performance in the Harmony for Mayo concert series ...your participation was greatly appreciated. We hope you'll consider participating in Harmony for Mayo again in the future
Rick Kvam, Director, Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble 12/01
We are grateful for your excellent, fun performance.
Roxanne Bergeron - Inside Bluegrass Magazine 11/01
Their first release, "Across the Blue Mountains," is a juicy compilation of traditional, original, and musical heroes' tunes dedicated to the memory of Bill Monroe (and Bruno, wherever you are). Lisa Fuglie's solo fiddle lick opening the title track is warm and colorful; then Benji Flaming's crisp banjo drives in, building and maintaining a bright structure. The harmonies of Fuglie and Art Blackburn are true and lovely and are followed midsong by an interplay of "Monster" Matt Thompson's gorgeous mandolin and Fuglie's fiddle. All throughout, Mark Anderson's understated bass cradles the tune. The fourteen-tune project, recorded during the summer months, mixed by Flaming and Anderson and mastered by Anderson, maintains solid energy throughout, from the bluegrass treatments of "The Cuckoo" — a confident departure from Alice Gerrard's old-time clawhammer banjo-driven version — and Fuglie's zennish "Frog" to Gillian Welch's neotraditional "Annabelle." The harmonies never fail, and their synergy soars when M.C. voices work a capella to open Blackburn's silky "Friendship's Road" waltz. The quintets polish as gregarious instrumentalists weaving in and out of breaks is pleasing. I really enjoyed the version of Bill Monroe's "Tallahassee," a joyful Mexican-Hat-Dance of a tune. The Twin Cities bluegrass community is too often like the road to Oz, with alliances, like people, coming and going so quickly! As a greedy consumer of the local scene, I'm clicking my red sequined pumps together three times and wishing for these guys to stay together and stick around for a long while.
Kate VanSickle, University of MN Morris 10/01
Everyone I talked to was quite pleased with Monroe Crossing. I was especially impressed with the unity of your group–it was obvious that you all have a good time together! The sound was superb, the group’s energy contagious, and the music was full of flavor! Your music brought great joy to the full audience at the Common Grounds Caffe!
Nate Dungan, Entertainment Supervisor, Minnesota State Fair 10/01
Thank you for bringing your excellent bluegrass band, MONROE CROSSING, to the Minnesota State Fair. The crowd...enjoyed your music and had a great time during your shows. This letter gives my highest recommendation to MONROE CROSSING for anyone booking live entertainment. The musicianship is truly outstanding. But one does not have to be an expert to enjoy your show–one merely has to see you and the group having such a great time on stage, to be entertained. Your band offers the kind of excellence that makes our fair proud. You are preserving the tradition and legacy of Bluegrass music, and presenting it to today’s audiences with contagious enthusiasm. It’s safe to say that this year, at the Minnesota State Fair, you have maintained your reputation as one of the best bluegrass bands ever to come out of Minnesota.
Sharon L Nelson, Co-Director, Kanabec History Center, Mora MN 10/01
Thank you for being at the Kanabec Fall Fest/ Your performance was well received and we had many comments on how much people enjoyed it. I appreciate the fact that you went ahead with both performances even though our plans had changed at the last moment, eliminating the second stage has planned. People really enjoyed your music, it was an uplifting, toe-tapping experience.
Joanne Bolles, Coordinator, Teddy Harrison, Jr. Music Benefit Concert 10/01
Thank you so very much for giving of your time and talent to the Teddy Harrison, Jr. Music Benefit Concert. It was a big day with much success for Teddy. Thanks again for your presence and your wonderful music. It meant everything to have you there!
Brenda Hough - The Northern California Bluegrass Society 10/01
Monroe Crossing is a happy blend of musicians who seemed destined for each other. The group had their "crossing" when members of the Pretty Good Bluegrass Band were helped at a gig by Matt Thompson and Benji Flaming. The ensuing performance so pleased everyone that they joined together to form the new group in the fall of 2000. While they are a relatively new group, their years of experience in different bands have given them a polished sound and exciting blend. (On "Across the Blue Mountains"), the crossing paths of traditional and modern sounds shows up in Matt Thompson's "Rain Was Turning Into Snow," with its flowering harmonies and Lisa Fuglie's strong vocal. Art Blackburn's song "Friendship's Road" has some wonderful blending harmonies and a message that we all can remember. Lisa's "Frog" is a fanciful pretend song that would appeal to all of us who wonder if "mosquitoes taste like marshmallows." She is also featured on the Gillian Welch song, "Annabelle."
The instrumental work is also top notch. Benji Flaming's banjo work provides a pulsating beat that weaves throughout the songs, and Art's flatpicking guitar leads provide strong punctuation and accent and seem to flow in patterns of their own making. Fellow Minnesotan Pat Donohue's song "All My Life" is given a bluegrass flavor complete with great lead breaks from Art and Benji. "Nail That Catfish to a Tree" showcases Lisa's strong woody fiddle sound and Matt's mandolin. The Bill Monroe instrumental "Tallahassee," is a seldom played song that the group plays with great power and drive that will set your feet a bouncing!
The album is a great beginning and we can only hope that Monroe Crossing will someday come out to us in California.
Liz Anderson, The University Register, University of Minnesota Morris 09/01
Last Friday night the Common Grounds Caffe was exactly that, a common ground for everyone in Morris to come together to hear some great bluegrass. Listeners of all ages received a spectacular mix of vocals, picking, and strumming. The music held a distinctive appeal to me, and the rest of the crowd...most were taping their toes or clapping along. They seemed to respond to all of the songs whether upbeat or mellow with the same enthusiasm. Towards the end of the second set, they started to play requests, many of which the band had never played before. However, they performed them just as though they had been practicing them for weeks. One audience member requested a song and actually went on stage to perform
with the group. Overall, the group did a fabulous job keeping the audience entranced...by providing a show second to none in their class.
Renee Appel, Dundee Nothing Days 09/01
Just wanted to let you know how much our small town enjoyed your performances at the Dundee Nothing Days Celebration. The comments we received were all of the highest praise!! My favorite was the gospel performance at the church. The harmony was fantastic and the musical talent of your entire group is phenomenal. It makes your goose bumps get up and hug each other. I, and many we have talked to since, look forward to seeing you perform again!
Neal Backues - Bluegrass World 09/01
...Monroe Crossing is certain to be one of the driving forces that brings what was once only music of the South to the northern most parts of America.
Jeannine Windels, President & CEO, Crookston MN Chamber/CVB, Ox Cart Days 08/01
WOW...It is always gratifying to have a group get the enthusiastic response that Monroe Crossing did. I would certainly recommend Monroe Crossing to anyone looking for a group that provides great bluegrass and gospel music, an engaging stage presence, and is as accommodating and easy to work with as all of you. We are definitely looking forward to having you back next year!
Lina Belar, Executive Director, Perham Pioneer Festiva 08/01
Thank you once again for performing at Pioneer Festival 2001. The comments I heard were all favorable and everybody had a great time! ...we just received funding for the 2002 Festival. I hope that you are available.
Rik James - Americana Backroads, KGLT, Bozeman MT 08/01
"Across the Blue Mountains" is lovely. Real nice material, well done!
Katryn Conlin - Inside Bluegrass Magazine 08/01
Benji's banjo playing sounds great...so tasteful and innovative. If I were from 'somewhere else' and heard "Across the Blue Mountains" and didn't know anybody on it, I would still be impressed!
Brother Bill Kaul - Bluegrass Saturday, WXPR, Rhinelander WI 08/01
"Across the Blue Mountains" is great! We'll give it all the air time we can!
Adrienne Roubinek, Pine City Summer Concerts, Pine City MN 06/01
Thanks for doing such a great job. Even with the rain. It was a memorable evening.
Steve Bonkowski, Nemadji Arts Guild Social, Nickerson MN 01/01
Thanks for the great music this weekend. This is truly a very special band that we were privileged to hear.
Dick Nunnelly - Inside Bluegrass Magazine 01/01
The pacing was good, the vocals were tight and powerful, and the instrumental work was (predictably) first-class.