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Max Wareham – ‘Rudy Lyle: The Unsung Hero of the Five-String Banjo’ review

Massachusetts-based banjo player Max Wareham’s first book, ‘Rudy Lyle: The Unsung Hero Of The Five-String Banjo’, is a dedicated insight into bluegrass music, focussing on Rudy Lyle, who recorded with Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass.  A unique blend of historical music biography, photography and sheet music, Wareham’s book is a fascinating reference guide for any musician or fan of the traditional sound of country music. 

The first section of the book showcases interviews that Wareham conducted with musicians who performed with Rudy, or saw him perform, sharing stories of playing bluegrass, and include many never-before-seen photographs of Rudy on stage with Bill Monroe and his band. As Wareham explains, ‘I began this project as a way to root my own playing more firmly in the tradition, but quickly came to realise that despite Rudy’s tremendous influence on the development of bluegrass music, he’s been nearly forgotten’. 

Wareham includes a section on how to play Rudy Lyle’s ‘constantly evolving’ banjo style and how to read the tabs. A key section of the book contains ‘The Complete Breaks With Bill Monroe And The Blue Grass Boys’ including the original recording dates alongside the sheet music, as well as information on the key to play in, where to place your fingers on the instrument and whether to use a capo or not. This section is great for new musicians who may just be starting their bluegrass journey, as well as more-established pickers.  It’s no surprise to learn that Wareham teaches music, as well as performs and produces, making this an easy-to-understand section, even for non-musicians. 

There’s also a transcription of ‘Raw Hide’, as well as a detailed appendix section, including an alphabetical list of the breaks included in the book. 

Even if you can’t play music, this book is clearly an appreciation of the art of performing bluegrass music, and it’s always worth searching for videos of the songs online to enjoy hearing the musical history presented in ‘Rudy Lyle: The Unsung Hero Of The Five-String Banjo’.

Wareham studied with banjo masters Tony Trischka, who wrote the foreward, and Bill Keith.

This book is perfect for fans of the distinct picking of the bluegrass sound as well as the music of Ricky Scaggs, Marty Stuart, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Charlie Worsham.

Publisher: Gateless Gate Music Publishing Release date: 23rd August 2022

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