Recordings of Contemporary and Older Roots Musicians*
Recordings of Contemporary Musicians
Old-time Music on the Air, Volume 1, Rounder 0331. A compilation of 26 tracks each by a different solo artist or stringband. It ranges from unaccompanied singing by Hazel Dickens to the modern old-time sound of fiddler Ralph Blizard. All these artists have their own recordings and the notes contain sources for all of them. Volume 2 is also good.
Midwestern Harvest - Lynn "Chirps" Smith, Marimac CD 9059. 26 carefully selected fiddle tunes with a variety of backup sounds, very well played. Good source of midwestern tunes, and also for careful or casual listening.
Family Songs & Stories From the North Carolina Mountains - Doug & Jack Wallin, Smithsonian Folkways 40013. Beautiful unaccompanied singing by Doug Wallin with help from brother Jack. This is the oldest, purest form of old- time singing as could have been heard in the 18th or 19th century - if you were very fortunate.. Doug is a NEA National Heritage Fellowship awardee.
One Dime Blues: Finger-picked Blues and Traditional Tunes - Etta Baker, Rounder 2112. Solo guitar instrumentals by legendary guitarist from musical North Carolina African-American family. NEA National Heritage Fellowship awardee.
Southern Ramble - Ralph Blizard, Rounder 0352. 15 tracks by "longbow" Tennessee fiddler and singer and his young old-time group. Ralph fiddles in his own smooth, neo/oldtime style and has won a lot of fiddle contests. Deep Hollows & High Ridges - Tracy Schwarz & Ginny Hawker, Marimac 9063. Two of the finest, most traditional sounding singers sing duets, just the two of them. Strong and soulful.
Lost Boy - Bruce Molsky, Rounder 0361. Inspired fiddling, much of it solo, with new techniques of harmony and strong bowing. From New York, respected across the borders.
A Song That Will Linger - Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin, Rounder 0274. 10 silky smooth, strong vocal and instrumental duets, with some bluegrass feel. Strong progressive approach to well chosen, mostly traditional material.
The Young Fogies, Volume 2, Rounder 0369. An anthology with 30 old-time style groups playing and singing 30 songs and tunes. This is one of several such documents of the current old-time string band scene by banjoist/teacher, Ray Alden.
Where'd You Come From, Where'd You Go? - The Freight Hoppers, Rounder 0403. A hot new old-time string band based in Bryson City, NC. These four young musicians and singers have a fresh sound, sometimes with bluegrass- influenced vocal harmonies.
Reissues By Older Roots Musicians
The Bristol Sessions, Country Music Foundation CMF 011-D. An excellent 35- track, 2-CD introduction to classic old-time music via the 1927 sessions during which the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers first recorded. Includes some of the best string band music 78s, and especially some of Ernest Stoneman's best performances. 21 different artists or groups.
The Doc Watson Family, Smithsonian Folkways 40012. A first-rate sound portrait of a deeply musical family. 26 performances range from down-home vocal solos such as the English ballad "House Carpenter" to "Southbound," a song composed by Merle Watson in 1965. (I must note here that Doc is very much alive and playing music.)
Altamont - Black Stringband Music, Rounder 0238. 14 amazing rare recordings made in the 1940s of two central Tennessee groups: Frazier & Patterson, a banjo fiddle duet, and Gribble, Lusk and York, a banjo, guitar and fiddle group. Many of us have been inspired enough by these recordings to keep playing the tunes ourselves.
Mountain Music of Kentucky, Smithsonian Folkways 40077. 68 tracks recorded in the field of musicians from southeastern Kentucky. The two CDs include recordings by Roscoe Holcomb (his first), miner/songwriter George Davis, a couple of church congregations and about 10 other very home-style musicians. If you want to get an idea of the rugged, sinewy kind of music Carter and Ralph Stanley probably heard around their home community when they were kids, then listen to this.
Anchored in Love - Carter Family, Rounder 1064. Sixteen of the earliest recordings from this popular old-time music group. There are eight other Carter Family CDs in this series. Furthermore, all of their commercial 78s and radio transcriptions will soon be released by either Bear Family (probably only an expensive imported multi-CD boxed set) or Arhoolie. The Rounder CDs can be purchased one at a time.
Freight Train & Other North Carolina Folk Songs and Tunes - Elizabeth Cotten, Smithsonian Folkways 40009. First recording of "Freight Train" sung by its composer. Turn of the century African-American guitar and banjo music played in unique left-handed style. 14 tracks.
Echoes of the Ozarks, Volume 1 or 2, County 3506 or 3507. Great collections of early 78 rpm recordings of string bands mostly from the Ozarks. The first has 22 tracks, the second 21.
Go 'Long Mule - Uncle Dave Macon, County CD 3505. Showman, songwriter, banjoist, singer and the first "star" of the Grand Ole Opry. Included are 18 of his best solo banjo songs and string band performances. His complete recordings are scheduled for re-release by Bear Family Records.
Tommy & Fred: Best Fiddle & Banjo Duets - Tommy Jarrell & Fred Cockerham, County CD-2702. Blue Ridge fiddle and clawhammer banjo music at its classic best. 21 tracks recorded in the sixties and seventies.
Are You From Dixie? Great Country Brother Teams of the 1930s, RCA 8417-2- R. The Monroe, Bolick, Allen, Dixon and Delmore brothers are represented here; some of this is immediately pre-bluegrass music from 78 rpm recordings. Many old-timers in the thirties would have been fans of this music, but would not have called it old-time - it was modern then.
This list was compiled with considerable help from a Chirps Smith's computerized list, "Old-time Music on Compact Disc," which can be obtained by writing Old Time Music On the Radio, PO Box 3014, Elkins, WV 26241. Furthermore, reviews of old-time CDs appear regularly in Bluegrass Unlimited and in a magazine devoted to oldtime music, The Old-Time Herald, PO Box 51812, Durham, NC 27707.