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The Blue Sky Boys

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Album Review

The Blue Sky Boys — brothers Earl and Bill Bolick — sprang out of the same era of brother duets that produced the Monroe Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, and the Louvin Brothers, but their sound was entirely their own. Theirs was, in some respects, an earlier sound; it was also a quieter, slower, and more serious sound than that of their contemporaries. While the other brother acts veered toward and experimented with newer styles of bluegrass or electrified country boogie, the Bolicks held stubbornly to their roots; rather, in fact, than joining the trend toward electrification, they retired from recording altogether, performing only occasionally in the years following World War II. This 1976 recording, together with a 1964 live album and a couple other early-'60s offerings, represents their gradual return from retirement to the studio and shows the brothers in true form. The 14 guitar-mandolin duets here are mostly mournful songs of unrequited love, murder, and loss, all sung in close, aching harmonies; while the brothers sing often of violence or sorrow, though, they invest in their songs of tragedy the overarching peace of an unshaking religious faith, itself the subject of a few of the songs. More than most country duets, the Bolicks consciously created in their repertoire a sense of beauty, emotion, and tradition — you can sense in their performances not only their musical heritage, but also the spiritual traditions of the Holiness Church. While all the songs on this album had been popular among the Bolicks' earlier radio audiences, the brothers had never recorded any of them before, making them available here for the first time. The result is a compelling collection of rare and soulful recordings by this quietly enduring country act.


Formed: 1936 in Hickory, NC

Genre: Country

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s

In the '30s, brother duets were common in country music: Among the better known were the Monroes, the Delmores, the Dixons, and the Carlisles. Bill and Earl Bolick, who in 1936 were ready to make their first recording, followed their producer's suggestion that they should be different by avoiding the word "brother." From "Blue Ridge Mountains, Land of the Sky" they took two words and named their act. But the Bolicks would have been different without the new name. Their intricate yet simple harmonies,...
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