Mac Wiseman is one of the greats from the golden age of classic bluegrass. From an early gig backing mountain music singer Molly O'Day, Wiseman landed a spot in the original 1946 lineup of Flatt & Scruggs's Foggy Mountain Boys. Wiseman also did some time with Bill Monroe before emerging as a solo star, following the success of his version of "Love Letters In The Sand," a song that perfectly showcased his sweet, clear tenor and strong, confident sense of melody. Wiseman was one of the bluegrass elders who were embraced by the 'Sixties folk movement, and during the '70s was a standard bearer of traditional musical values. Following the breakup of the Flatt & Scruggs duo, Wiseman became a frequent collaborator of Lester Flatt, cutting several fine albums with him in the early '70s.
Here's a quick look at the many "best-of" collections that gather his work, a hefty chunk of which has made it into digital form. You might also enjoy checking out some of the a href="wiseman_mac_01.html">original albums which may be harder to find, but are equally rewarding.
Mac Wiseman "Sincerely, Mac Wiseman" (Hamilton, 1964) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "Golden Hits Of Mac Wiseman" (Dot, 1968) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "16 Great Performances" (ABC, 1974) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "The Mac Wiseman Story" (CMH, 1976) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "Golden Classics" (Gusto, 1979) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "Bluegrass Gold - Greatest Bluegrass Hits" (CMH, 1982) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "Early Dot Recordings, v.1" (County, 1981) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "Early Dot Recordings, v.2" (County, 1982) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "24 Greatest Hits" (Tee Vee, 1986)
Mac Wiseman "24 Greatest Hits" (TeeVee/Highland, 1987)
Later recordings by this once-revered bluegrass tenor... These tracks are a bit prissy and restrained, but they'll have to do since his classic mid-Fifties recordings are still mysteriously way out of print. The (nonexistant) liner notes don't say when these tracks were recorded, but I'd guess in the late 1970s or somewhere around then, as the band lopes through some fattened, countrified licks and swoop about a bit more than you might exect... and the drums will make a few truegrass purists cringe. But Wiseman's voice sounds as great as ever -- distinctive and inviting!
Mac Wiseman "Classic Bluegrass" (Rebel, 1989)
It's a pity -- a crime, actually -- that Mac Wiseman's truly classic performances from the early 1950s remain out of print, in some sort of inter-label limbo, with the best material now almost impossible to find. In fact, this great album, which is a fine set of early '70s re-recordings made for the Vetco label, is also out of print, although with luck and persistence you may be able to track it down. You might think that Wiseman, tackling these tunes two decades after the fact, would have faltered a bit, but thankfully such was not the case. His tenor was still as sweet, the picking still as precise, the music every bit as lovely as it was when he set the bar for candy-coated hilltop harmonies, 'way back in his early years as a solo performer. Long one of my favorite bluegrassers, Wiseman is a treat to discover. Hopefully his best work will be available again soon!
Mac Wiseman "Early Dot Recordings, Vol. 3" (County, 1994)
In his prime, tenor vocalist and sweet superpicker Mac Wiseman was one of the greatest and most heartfelt bluegrass performers. He had a great stint with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys at the end of the 1940s, then early in the 1950s set out on his own, recording some of the best bluegrass of that golden decade. This CD is, mysteriously, the only one of three volumes of his classic '50s material still in print, and includes such gorgeous classics as "Sweeter Than Honey," "Don't Blame It All On Me" and "I Still Write Your Name In The Sand." If you like sweet-sounding heart songs and restrained, elegant playing, then this disc is for you. Don't hesitate to snap it up.
Mac Wiseman "Rare Singles And Radio Transcriptions" (Cowgirlboy, 1992) (LP)
Mac Wiseman "Teenage Hangout" (Bear Family, 1993)
Mac Wiseman "20 Old Time Country Favorites" (Rural Rhythm, 1997)
Mac Wiseman "Mac Wiseman Sings Gospel, Vol. 1" (Music Mill, 2001)
Mac Wiseman "Mac Wiseman Sings Gospel, Vol. 2" (Music Mill, 2001)
Mac Wiseman "At The Toronto Horseshoe Club" (Music Mill/Wise Records, 2001)
Mac Wiseman "The Most Requested" (CMH, 2001)
Mac Wiseman "The Heart Of A Legend" (Madacy, 2002)
Mac Wiseman "The Singles" (Music Mill, 2003)
His Capitol singles, including B-sides...
Mac Wiseman "Tis Sweet To Be Remembered -- Complete Recordings: 1951-1964" (Bear Family, 2004)
A 6-CD set (!) reissuing material from his Dot and Capitol recordings... Prime material from the 1950s and early '60s... Whew! How cool!
Mac Wiseman "Precious Moments" (Brentwood, 2005)
Mac Wiseman "The Best Of Mac Wiseman Ð Essential Original Masters" (Rural Rhythm, 2006)
Mac Wiseman "On Susan's Floor" (Bear Family, 2006)
A 4-CD set...
Mac Wiseman "Bluegrass Hits And Heartsongs" (Rebel, 2009)
(Produced by Lou Ukelson & Fred Bartelstein)
Beautiful bluegrass. Mac Wiseman is one of my favorite bluegrass old-timers -- a sweet singer with an unerring sense of how to bring out the emotional core of the sentimental lyrics, and a classy sense of timing that always brings a nice little twist to his records. This disc collects fourteen tracks from a couple of albums he made for the independent Vetco label in the 1970s; for these sessions Wiseman went back to his classic recordings of the early 'Fifties and revived a bunch of his favorite songs... It'll come as no surprise to longtime fans that these tracks are uniformly lively and gorgeous; even well into his golden years, Wiseman was always a first-rate performer, singing with great warmth and gusto. If you haven't heard his stuff before, this is a great chance to delve into Wiseman's legacy. Recommended!
Mac Wiseman "The Mac Wiseman Story" (CMH/Music Mill, 2012)
This 6-CD set reissues over 150 songs from Wiseman's CMH albums, from 1976-2001...
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