How To Make The Perfect Bluegrass Album

Read our review of Happy Prisoner by Robert Earl Keen

A sure-fire,

step-by-step account

of how to make

the ideal bluegrass album

Critical Ingredients

  • one roots music troubadour – with enormous standing and credibility, with a vision to make a great result, an emotive leather-worn voice with an acute music sensibility, a great instrumentalist and possessing a lot of A-grade music compadres – like Robert Earl Keen
  • nine of the best musicians going around – like

Danny Barnes, guitar and banjo

Sara Watkins, fiddle

Kym Warner, mandolin

Bill Whitbeck, bass

Rich Brotherton, guitar, mandolin, citern

Tom Van Schaik, percussion

Marty Muse, dobro

Denis Ludiker, fiddle

Chloe Keen, violin

Basic Ingredients

  • three excellent special guests – like Lyle Lovett, Natalie Maines and Peter Rowan
  • one recorded anectdote relating to legend Bill Monroe – like Peter Rowan’s story about how “Walls Of Time” was written
  • one Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs song – like “Hot Corn, Cold Corn”
  • one Richard Thompson number – like “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”
  • one Bill Monroe track – like “Footprints In The Snow”
  • one Jesse Fuller tune – like “99 Years For One Dark Day”
  • one A. P. Carter (of the Carter Family) number – like “East Virginia Blues”
  • one traditional tune, lovingly arranged – like Robert Earl Keen with “Poor Ellen Smith”
  • one song from a pair of classic country songwriters – like Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin’s “Long Black Veil”
  • one great tune made famous by Jim Reeves – like “This World Is Not My Home” by Albert E. Brumley and Mary Reeves
  • one Jimmie Rodgers track – like “T for Texas”
  • one Peter Rowan and Bill Monroe co-write – like the aforementioned “Walls Of Time”
  • one song from Carter Stanley of the legendary Stanley Brothers – like “White Dove”
  • one tune that sounds like an old bluegrass classic but was recorded in the 1960’s – like “Old Home Place” which was recorded originally by The Dillards and was written by Dean Webb and Mitch Jayne
  • one track written by an inductee into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame – like Red Clay Ramblers founder Tommy Thompson
  • another traditional tune, lovingly arranged – like Robert Earl Keen with “Wayfaring Stranger”.


Place all ingredients in a tiny room with the roots music troubadour calling the shots.

Knead carefully all components, mix thoroughly and with much love.  Give all ingredients to chance to shine through.  Continually taste to savour the results, but don’t take too long as this could affect the spontaneity and overwork the ingredients thereby leading to some degredation.


Add detailed and loving notes to the product, as well as attractive photography to put it in its best light.

Call the result something catchy – like Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions.


Robert Earl Keen Happy Prisoner 300For one of the best experiences of the year – delicious and mouth watering.


Read our review of Happy Prisoner by Robert Earl Keen


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Author: Rob Dickens

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