This album was issued in 1992 as part of the Newport Folk Festival Classics set of albums that compiled and documented the highly influential festival that ran from 1959 into the sixties. The festivals coincided with, and were part of, the US folk music boom and were instrumental in introducing many examples of traditional and roots music to a new generation. The festival featured major artists on main stages, but on other stages at varying times of day workshop performances ran where the accent was very much on shared appreciation of music genres and expertise where artists and audience alike could learn from each other. Some of the tracks on this compilation come from such workshops, like the opening fusillade of fiddling from father and son Lue and Byron Berline who delivered four snappy public domain tunes during a Saturday afternoon session. Byron of course went on to be one of the most valued Nashville session players later in the sixties especially when the country rock boom needed really good fiddle players.
We move on to The Stanley Brothers whose career dated back into the forties. They present four of their best know tunes, including ‘ I’m A Man Of Constant Sorrow’ and the fine crowd-pleasing instrumentals ‘Big Tildy’ and ‘Orange Blossom Special’. Another well-established old-timer was Fiddling Arthur Smith plays the classic tunes ‘Leather Britches’ and ‘Blackberry Blossom’, before we get to the comparatively new chaps on the scene The Greenbriar Boys, then riding on the success of their debut album on Vanguard. The Dillards, recorded at Newport in 1963, were popular via TV shows and records to more than just pure bluegrass audiences. Here they stick close to their Ozark roots with traditional adapted tunes, their own ‘Banjo In the Hollow’ and the famed ‘Dueling Banjos’. Clayton McMichen was another older generation fiddle player whose musical activity dates back to the twenties and thirties when his group The Georgia Wildcats included a young Merle Travis on guitar. The penultimate act is The New York City Ramblers whose ranks included the young David Grisman on mandolin. They play David's composition ‘Cedar Hill’ alongside three others that include a Bill Monroe song. Monroe himself with his Bluegrass Boys is the final act here with five tracks to delight the crowd. Thought of as the 'father of bluegrass' Monroe was highly influential to the whole musical world, and one of the songs here is a strong version of his own ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’ which had of course been one of Elvis Presley's first recordings. We also get ‘Muleskinner Blues’, and his gospel-rooted song ‘Somebody Touched Me’ which became another song to get several covers during the sixties. The set closes with collection title ‘Bluegrass Breakdown’, a tune so suitable for the old adage of 'leave 'em wanting more', which is indeed what this whole CD does as it serves as one of many wonderful routes into the classic Newport Folk Festival CDs that are available through Ace.