Andy Statman is a NEA National Heritage Fellow and a Grammy Award nominee who has become a legendary figure in modern bluegrass. He has recorded and/or toured with Ricky Skagges, Béla Fleck, Itzhak Perlman, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, to name just a few, and he received a Grammy nomination for “Rawhide!” from the album East Flatbush Blues. His latest CD, Monroe Bus, was released in March 2019, and features Grammy-nominated fiddler Michael Cleveland, veteran trio members Jim Whitney (bass) and Larry Eagle (drums), Glenn Patscha (keyboards) and Michael Daves (acoustic guitar).

To truly understand the meaning of Statman’s Monroe Bus album, Stay Thirsty Magazine thought it most appropriate to let Andy recount the background and the meaning of the project in his own words:

“As I headed home after my second consecutive fourteen-hour day in the studio, I realized that I needed a medium-tempo, ‘Brown County Breakdown’ type of melody on the CD. When I arrived, I spent the next two or three hours writing one, and then went to sleep.

That night I dreamt I was on the Texas prairie, by a campfire. Bill Monroe appeared out of the shadows. He looked as he did in his late 30s or early 40s, fit and trim, but dressed like one of the old Texas Rangers (minus the badge and six-gun). He looked a little upset.

I asked, ‘Bill, what's wrong?’

He replied, ‘Nobody respects me!’

I told him, ‘I respect you, Bill.’

He seemed appeased, and nodding his head, said, ‘I appreciate that.’

Bill Monroe with Andy Statman in background (1966)

The next morning, as I headed back to the studio, I saw a bus on the highway displaying its destination, ‘To Monroe,’ which happens to be a town in upstate New York. As a teenager, the Bill Monroe tour bus-nicknamed ‘Bluegrass Breakdown,’ due to its old and battered condition, captured my imagination. With this sighting, my new tune – and this recording project – now had a name.

This CD was originally conceived as a collection of interpretations of and improvisations on the instrumentals of Bill Monroe. Bill's music had a tremendous influence on me when I started out as a mandolin player and has continued to do so ever since.

As the project progressed, I found myself writing my own tunes, inspired by some of Monroe's musical ideas. Some melodies more closely reflect the master's influence; others go to other places entirely, but still bear that influence.

Andy Statman in the studio

During the mixing, it once again became clear to me how the music one plays, and writes, is a reflection of the life a person lives. A musician's thoughts, ideas, feelings, experiences and memories are expressed through the prism of the music he plays.

Bill Monroe's music was an ongoing conscious synthesis of the music he heard and his life experience. These tunes were written and played in the same spirit, reflecting my influences and experiences, and those of my fellow musicians on these sessions.”

Stay Thirsty Magazine is proud to present a brief sample of the bluegrass-mandolin legend Andy Statman playing “Romp” from Monroe Bus.


(Bill Monroe with Andy Statman photo credit: Fred Robbins; Andy Statman studio photo credit: Bradley Klein)


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.