There are not a lot of straight bluegrass instrumental mandolin
albums, because it has been seen as an ensemble instrument
and few mandolin players of old put out whole instrumental
albums. Thus it's important to listen to players like Bill
Monroe, Jesse McReynolds, Ronnie McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Adam
Steffey, in their band ensembles. Check out my Bluegrass
Album recommendations for bluegrass mandolin in the context
of a full band. However, both Flatt & Scruggs and the
Stanley Brothers de-emphasized the mandolin so you won't find
very many mandolin solos in their material.
Here are some Cds put out by mandolin players as solo projects:
John Reischman: This is
the guy I want my students to listen to for tone, taste and
timing. Up in the Woods (Corvus)
or North of the Border (Rounder) are good choices.
I especially like how John stands out on slower numbers, where
it takes more than speed to impress. Of course he can burn
when he needs to. Also of note, his playing on Good Ol' Persons'
Albums from the 1980's.
Butch Baldesari: Butch
has a few albums out, but I like Old Town (Rounder)
the best. It has mostly traditional bluegrass instrumentals
mixed with a few originals, with stellar players throughout.
Butch is a top-flight player with very good tone and a strong
sense of tradition. This album is very listenable, with a
good mix of fast, slow, major and minor - never trying too
hard to impress.
Sam Bush: Late As Usual
(Rounder). Sam is the rock n roller's mandolin player - a
fireball on stage, as apt to do a reggae tune as bluegrass.
This is his first solo album, and it offers a smattering of
his eclectic skills.
David Grisman: David is
one of the most influential players since Bill Monroe and
was one of the first progressive players. His landmark album
The David Grisman Quintet from 1976, mixed bluegrass
virtuosity with jazz elements and had a huge impact on many
in the bluegrass crowd that were looking for a more progressive
tilt. The first time I heard it I was floored - at that time
it was a whole new sound. Now these elements have made their
way into many of today's mandolin players, but it's still
worth a listen. To hear Grisman's bluegrass playing, try his
Home Is Where The Heart Is album on Rounder.
Adam Steffey: He finally
put out his first solo album, Grateful, (Mountain Home)
in 2002, but Adam has been known for years for his jazzy bluegrass
mandolin breaks, showcased with Alison Krauss and Union Station.
You might try her Every Time You Say Goodbye CD for some tasteful,
yet progressive mandolin solos.
Chris Thile: The boy wonder
of the mandolin, Chris can probably lay claim to being to
world's best even though he's still in his early twenties.
Check out anything he's on, including his band Nickel Creek,
but only his first solo album, Leading Off (Rounder)
made when he was all of about 13, has much for the bluegrass
crowd. If you want the progressive end of things, his mandolin
duet album Into the Cauldron with Mike Marshall will
show two of the top players going full force.
Mandolin Extravaganza (Acoustic
Disc) is a mando centric instrumental album featuring eight
great players, old and new. Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne,
Frank Wakefield, Buck White, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Ricky
Skaggs and Ronnie McCoury are featured on this double disc
set. Maybe more mandolin playing than you can take in at one
time, but you get a good perspective on a variety of styles.