Wednesday, October 31, 2007

“Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain”


After a very long dry spell, we finally got some much needed rain late last week.

Rainy weather is often associated with dark, cold, lonely times, but rain such as we had here last week is reason to run outside just to dance in the cool, refreshing rain. I suppose it’s all in your point of view.


Lovin' Spoonful - Rain On The Roof.mp3

The Kingston Trio - Rusting In The Rain.mp3

Dave Van Ronk - Didn't It Rain.mp3

The Dillards - Rainin' Here This Mornin'.mp3

Cheryl Wheeler - Rainin'.mp3

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"I dug on your grave the best part of last night"


What better time to discuss murder ballads than Halloween? Several well known American murder ballads from the Appalachian region are based on the 18th century English folksong “The Gosport Tragedy.” The story is a familiar one: a callous young man murders his girlfriend when he learns she is pregnant. Sadly, it’s an old story in folksong around the world. Many of these ghastly ballads may have been sung to tell of true stories. In the days before TV or radio and when the majority of the rural population was illiterate and couldn’t read a newspaper even if one was available locally, folk songs were used as a means of relating local news as well as to provide entertainment.

In “The Gosport Tragedy”, and related English ballads such as “The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter”, a young man murders his fiancée as they are out for a stroll and puts her body in a grave he had previously prepared. The versions from Appalachia follow along this same theme with one significant difference that may reflect differences between the two cultures. In the British version of “The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter” the murderer tries to escape aboard a ship, but a mighty storm blows up and the ghost of his victim rises from the waves to tear him apart. In the American versions the supernatural element is eliminated and the murderer leaves his victim in her grave with only the “wild birds to mourn.”

B.F. Shelton - Pretty Polly.mp3

Dock Boggs - Little Omie Wise.mp3

Louvin Brothers - Knoxville Girl.mp3

Dock Boggs - Pretty Polly.mp3

Monday, October 29, 2007

Managed Reality

Suppose they gave a press conference, and no press came.

During the height of California’s wildfires last week, FEMA’s Deputy Administrator, Admiral Harvey Johnson, held a faux news conference in which his own staff members posed as reporters. All of the questions and responses were prearranged. Legitimate news organizations were given a live video feed and a phone number where they could “listen in.”

It may sound like something from Pravda or Fox News, but this charade was planned and executed by a U.S. federal agency. “Heck-of-job, Harvey.” This is far from the first time our own government has tried to deceive the public, remember Jeff Gannon, the gay porn star turned reporter in the White House Press Corp or the colorful terrorist threat level warnings that were elevated following any unflattering news about the administration?

Of course, this is not the first time someone has been passed off for something they weren’t. P.T. Barnum and Robert Ripley both made fortunes presenting items of questionable authenticity to a gullible public. Many a traveling medicine show filled their pockets as folks looking for a miracle cure bought bottles filled with anything from watered down alcohol to tinctures made from opium or cocaine. Let’s not forget the barkers enticing folks into the sideshow tents at the circus with promises of “wonders never before seen.”

Such was the story of Jilson Setters.

Jilson Setters came to public attention in the February 1930 edition of American Magazine. In an article entitled “Blind Jilson: The Singing Fiddler of Lost Hope Hollow” written by Jean Thomas. As she recounts in her article, Jean Thomas was working as a traveling court stenographer in the mountains of Kentucky when she happened across the blind fiddler.

“In a windowless cabin, hidden away in a high cranny of the Kentucky mountains, lived Jilson Setters, who, for all his sixty-five years, had never seen a railroad. Neither had he heard a phonograph nor a radio. His home-made fiddle and his ‘ballets’ were good enough for Jilson Setters and mountain folk.”
from: “The Last Minstrel” by Jean Thomas, The English Journal, December, 1928


Jean Thomas explains how she arranged for an operation that gave Jilson Setters his sight. The modern world was a wonder to behold for this blind mountain man who had lived a primitive existence in the mountains no different than that of his pioneer forefathers. Jean Thomas arranged for Jilson Setters to journey to New York for a recording session for RCA Victor and the Library of Congress. Acting as his agent, Thomas arranged many concerts for Jilson Setters to play at New York’s high society functions. She took him on tour playing for academics and society leaders in major cities across America. The pair even made a trip to London to play at Albert Hall for the elite of England, including King George V.

The music that Jilson Setters played was touted as untouched English ballads as they were first played in the American wilderness by the first settlers. Jilson Setters, his family and neighbors, had lived such an isolated life in the hills of Kentucky, that his music represented the purest of early American music. Jean Thomas founded the American Folk Song Society and held the National Song Festival. By 1934, Thomas was dressing in Elizabethan garb and Setters had become her primary performer, just one of many, which she took on tour as part of her National Song Festival.

Jean Thomas had subtitled her 1930 American Magazine article “A True Story That Is Stranger Than Fiction,” but nearly all of the story was of her own fabrication. Thomas had created the incredible story of Jilson Setters, including his name. James William “Blind Bill” Day was recruited for the part of the imaginary Jilson Setters. There is no place in Kentucky known as Lost Hope Hollow, which was another of Jean Thomas’ creations. Bill Day was actually from the town of Cattlesburg, Kentucky. Also, Day was not blind from birth as Thomas had claimed, but suffered from failing sight due to cataracts. Jean Thomas arranged to have his cataracts removed from his eyes and began to teach Day to play English folk songs from the Elizabethan period.

Bill Day (as Jilson Setters) recorded several sides for Victor and the Library of Congress in the late 1920s. He toured the high society of America and England, including playing for the king. Under Thomas’ guidance, he continued to tour until shortly before his death in the early 1940s. Not until after his death did anyone find the truth about Jilson Setters.

Jilson Setters - No Corn On Tigert.mp3
From a Library of Congress recording. Scratchy and poorly recorded.

Jilson Setters - Way Up on Clinch Mountain.mp3

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Label Spotlight: Arhoolie Records


While teaching at a high school in Los Gatos, California, Chris Strachwitz spent his summers traveling through the South with a portable tape recorder intent on capturing the live barroom sound of Lightnin’ Hopkins and other musicians he had been collecting on old 78s. It was during one of these trips to Texas that he found Mance Lipscomb, a sharecropper who supplemented his income cutting grass with a road crew north of Houston. Chris Strachwitz suspended a single microphone above a table in Mance Lipscomb’s kitchen, that recording would become Arhoolie’s first LP, released in 1960, the birth of Arhoolie Records and the start of an incredible journey for Chris Strachwitz.

Through his travels Chris Strachwitz discovered and recorded many artists that may have remained relatively unknown to a larger audience if it hadn’t been for the dedication of Chris Strachwitz and his infatuation with the unique regional music of America. Artists such as Clifton Chenier, Black Ace, Flaco Jimenez, Lil’ Son Jackson, and BeauSoleil all were first recorded by Strachwitz.

It was through his collecting and selling old 78s that Chris Strachwitz first heard the raw sounds of the blues, early jazz, and hillbilly artists. During his travels he tried to track down many of the artists he admired from these old 78 records. He launched renewed recording careers for many of these musicians, such as ‘Mississippi’ Fred McDowell and Del McCoury.

Here on the Bus we hold the owners of independent record companies and ethnomusicologists in high regard. Chris Strachwitz is a member of an elite group that includes Moses Asch (founder of Folkways Records), and ethnomusicoligists Harry Everett Smith (Anthology of American Folk Music, 1952), and John and Alan Lomax (The Folk Songs of North America and responsible for over ten thousand field recordings for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress) who through their research and documentation have preserved and promoted the down-home regional American music that we love.

In 2000 a Grammy Award winning special 5 disc retrospective was issued, The Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Box Set – 1960-2000 “The Journey of Chris Strachwitz”. This amazing collection holds 106 songs by 96 artists and includes a large format 68 page color book, filled with over 120 photos from the Arhoolie Archives. If this wonderful archive of American music is not already an important part of your collection, now is the chance to rectify that oversight.

Arhoolie Records is holding a sale on over 80 classic CDs. The sale is not available on their website, but only by downloading the special sale flyer. Included in the sale are releases some great CDs from the Arhoolie catalog including The Pine Leaf Boys, No Speed Limit, Stevie Barr, Clifton Chenier, Flaco Jimenez, Lightnin' Hopkins, Rose Maddox, J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and many, many more. The sale flyer includes something from every genre; Blues, Gospel, Bluegrass, Jazz, Cajun, Zydeco, Tejano, and Traditional Music from around the world. This is a rare and wonderful opportunity to fill the gaps in your collection or just explore and expand your musical horizons.

Most amazing to me is the opportunity to pick up the 5 CD The Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Box Set – 1960-2000 “The Journey of Chris Strachwitz” for only US$20! The set is normally $50 and is listed at Amazon for $54.98. I paid full price for this collection when it was first released and believe I got a deal! Five CDs filled with a wide assortment of rare and wonderful recordings and a large, glossy 68 page book for fifty bucks, that’s a deal, but the same set for a mere twenty greenbacks, that’s a steal!

Click here to download the Arhoolie Sale Catalog (.pdf file)


One of These Mornings (I'm Checkin' Out) - J C Burris.mp3

Mother - Paramount Gospel Singers.mp3

I Know That's Right - Katie Webster.mp3

Falling For You - Rose Maddox.mp3

Check Out the Zydeco - C J Chenier.mp3


Visit Arhoolie Records

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Release: Jon Shain - Army Jacket Winter


Jon Shain’s emotion filled lyrics, deft guitar playing, and diverse musical roots are as comfortable as the well worn thrift store favorite referenced in the CD’s title. Army Jacket Winter is the fifth solo release from veteran singer/songwriter Jon Shain and is a wonderfully diverse collection covering a spectrum of roots influences.

Army Jacket Winter opens with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Time to Move On” with wonderfully engaging acoustic finger-picked guitar and lilting harmonica. Shain’s brilliant fingerstylings were honed during an apprenticeship with legendary Piedmont blues guitarist Richard "Big Boy" Henry in the late 1980s. Jon Shain has taken some ribbing about his ‘50s Sears Silvertone guitar, but the sounds he coaxes from it equal any high dollar brand name axe. His song “Silvertone” is a delightful ode to his trusty tool that “can take my blues and somehow make ‘em shine.”

Aside from the opening cut, all of the compositions on Army Jacket Winter are insightful observations of the trials and joys of life from the pen of Jon Shain. He is a masterful songwriter who draws listeners into each song to feel the compassion, loss, and hopes. The soft sound of the accordion, guitar, and piano on "In Real Time" conjures up the sights and sounds on a small sidewalk café in Paris. "To Rise Again" pays homage to post-Katrina New Orleans with a bluesy interplay between harmonica and muted trumpet as thick as the humidity on a south Louisiana summer night.

Another reviewer wrote “it is clear that Shain has stretched his musical envelope on this album”, I couldn’t agree more. Army Jacket Winter is a wonderfully diverse and totally satisfying introduction to the world of this masterful musician and songwriter.

Jon Shain - Another Month Of Mondays.mp3

Jon Shain - Pictures From The Past.mp3

Jon Shain - "Army Jacket Winter"
Label: Flyin' Records
Web:
www.jonshain.com
MySpace
Buy/Download:
CDBaby

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New Release: Kent McAlister & the Iron Choir - The Way It Rolls


Canada’s tradition of good country music is firmly rooted in the prairies of Alberta. From these roots has sprouted a more contemporary branch of Americana that has a fresh vibrancy while still paying homage to the pioneers that defined the genre.

Kent McAlister may have relocated from his dusty Alberta roots for the ocean-side energy of coastal British Columbia, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Along McAlister’s journey he has gained a proficiency in everything from jazz to post-modern rock, but these later influences were seamlessly blended with his deep country roots rather than replacing them.

When Kent McAlister & the Iron Choir’s new release, The Way it Rolls first arrived at the Bus I opened it with a bit of anticipation. For some reason, I find that some of the best Americana music comes from outside the borders of the U.S. and the first few bars of the first cut “Circumstantial Dues” only strengthened that theory.

McAlister’s expressive baritone voice has the warm, comfortable sound of a folk singer, at times gentle and inviting and at others powerful and convincing. The music on The Way it Rolls is just as varied starting with the Bakersfield-inspired “Circumstantial Dues”, the mariachi sound of “Old Bandolier” (including a burst of Spanish style horns), to a cover of legendary songwriter Leonard Cohen’s “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”, and the mysterious folk/jazz of “A Twisted Wire” complete with other-worldly echoing guitar. “All That You Know” is a country/folk lament of parting lovers with an acoustic guitar rhythm tastefully accented with pedal steel guitar and touches of swirling strings. The CD shifts gears again with the title song, “The Way It Rolls”, kicking off with a guitar riff that could have come straight off a classic country album from the ‘60s. Changing gears yet again, “Ballad of the Jaded Wagoneer” is an all acoustic, dusty trail cowboy song of an alcoholic that has fallen off the wagon. The CD finishes strong with “It Counts For Something”. Nashville could take a few tips from this song that smoothly combines a country theme with country-rock and jazz instrumentation, pop hooks, and folk sensibility.

The Way it Rolls left me wanting more, not because it lacked anything, rather because it is such a diverse treat. This second release from Kent McAlister & the Iron Choir is packed to the brim with superb, emotion-filled songwriting, excellent arrangements, and outstanding musicianship.

Kent McAlister & The Iron Choir - "The Way it Rolls" was due to be released October 23rd but a quick search of the regular outlets does not show any listings yet, at least in the U.S.

I would recommend checking McAlister’s MySpace page or website (website still under construction also) to watch for a release date.
"The Way it Rolls" is worth the wait.


Kent McAlister – The Way It Rolls.mp3

Kent McAlister & The Iron Choir - "The Way it Rolls"
Web:
MySpace
website

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Power of Religion

The Bus is now on its third year of roaming the virtual backroads of the interweb. When the Bus first hit the road, I made it a policy to avoid discussions of politics or religion. Well, by the end of the first year I had broken my own rule about political posts, and I may have skirted the issue of religion a time or two.

A few years ago there was a series of threads on one of my favorite discussion boards about the inclusion of sermons at the festivals where Sunday mornings are started off with a gospel music show. Many posters felt that those Sunday morning segments were worship services and that preaching should be a part of the show. Many more felt that the Sunday morning shows were more a celebration of gospel music and that the music was the focus at a music festival. This second group of posters believed that those audience members that wished to use that time for worship were free to do so, but that no particular religion or denomination was sanctioned by the festival promoters. The gospel music was part of a larger celebration of music.

No matter your own beliefs, one can not deny that religion has played a large roll in American music and it would be a shame not to acknowledge that fact. For instance: I have always loved music performed a cappella, whether it is a lone voice or a group of voices singing in harmony. By avoiding spiritual music on the Bus, we have not been able to enjoy much unaccompanied singing. For that matter, we have not heard many wonderful compositions that came from the hymnals and pews of America.

I have always believed that the best music is written from the heart. When a songwriter feels deeply about a subject, most often those strong feelings come through in the song. The first Respond CD is a perfect example of this theory. Put together in 1999 by some of the Boston area’s best female folk artists to benefit a local domestic violence organization, the CD is packed full of emotional energy and deeply moving songs. The music of Woody Guthrie was written from a deep commitment to the plight of the underclass. In fact, most of the music that I feature on the Bus meets this criteria, whether it’s the socially responsible music of Carrie Newcomer, or the down and out blues of Son House, it all comes from a deep, emotional place, not a corporate pocketbook.

When it comes to gospel and religious music, I tend to side with that second group of posters on the discussion board mentioned above. The Bus is on a musical journey through the history of North America. The focus here is on the music and to ignore the impact of the church on the music of this continent would not be a true representation of American music.

Bob Gibson – This Little Light of Mine.mp3

Blind Roosevelt Graves and Brother – Woke up This Morning with My Mind on Jesus.mp3
Blind Roosevelt Graves and his brother, Uaroy Graves, recorded great spirituals for Paramount in 1929 as the Graves Brothers, when they recorded several blues records in 1936 they recorded as the Mississippi Jook Band. The New Roanoke Jug Band included a great rendition of this song on their new CD, "When My Time On Earth Is Done."


Mississippi John Hurt – Nearer My God to Thee.mp3

The Staples Singers – I Wish I Had Answered.mp3

Joe Louis Walker – I’ll Get to Heaven on My Own.mp3
Although influenced by spirituals, I suppose you could call this an anti-spritual. This cut, along with an enormous collection of great roots music is included on the incredible “American Music: The HighTone Records Story”, available from HighTone Records.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Paradise Gone


“Daddy won’t you take me
back to Muhlenberg County
down by the Green River
where Paradise lay.

I’m sorry my son
But you’re too late in asking
Mr. Peabody’s coal train
has hauled it away.”


These lyrics and the tune that accompanies them are familiar to nearly everyone. I have met a few younger people who thought that the song was an old traditional song from the Appalachians. As much as it has been adopted by many traditional artists, “Paradise”, of course, was written by John Prine. I suspect that all of the riders on the Bus were aware of the song’s true origin.

What many folks don’t know is the story of Paradise and the Green River. The Green River flows through the heart of the Western Coal Field Region of Kentucky. The Green River starts in Lincoln County, just about in the center of Kentucky and ends about 300 river miles away at the confluence with the Ohio River. The river flows through Mammoth Cave National Park and drains the cave and surrounding area.

Starting in 1842, a series of four locks and dams were constructed along the Green River to facilitate barge traffic to the vast lignite coal fields, petroleum coke, and aluminum ore that were mined and produced along it’s banks. Muhlenberg County was at one time the largest coal producing county in North America and the Peabody Coal Company was, and still is, the largest coal company in the world. Peabody had several operations along Kentucky’s Green River, but it wasn’t Peabody that hauled away the town of Paradise.

Notice that Paradise is capitalized in Prine’s lyrics. Yes, there was a town named Paradise along the Green River. Peabody didn’t directly haul the town away, although it is possible that their influence and political power had much more to do with it than the records indicate. No, the town of Paradise was submerged below the Green River Lake in 1969, when the Tennessee Valley Authority impounded the river behind a new dam to provide flood protection, electricity, and improved barge traffic to the coal fields.

So the story of Paradise, the Green River, and Peabody’s Coal is not a traditional song, but John Prine’s response to the further damming of the beautiful Green River and the loss of the town of Paradise. Prine grew up in Indiana, just across the Ohio River from where the Green joins the Ohio. The controversy of the new dam and the submerging of the town of Paradise would have been local news to his home region.

The Green River and Peabody Coal were once again in the news just a few years ago. Peabody Energy, same company / new name, applied for permits to construct a 1500mw coal fired power plant near Central City, Kentucky, the largest coal-fired power plant to be built in America in the last twenty years. As proposed by Peabody the plant will not have flue gas scrubbers and will return the heated water to the river untreated and at high temperatures. The proposed site is only 50 miles west of Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth Cave already has the worst visibility of any National Park in the United States, the proposed power plant would add to the white, sulfurous haze that hangs over the Park nearly continuously. The EPA filed its arguments against the construction of the plant as proposed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also filed an objection based on the Peabody’s plans to build a large barge unloading dock and water supply and discharge structures on the banks of the Green River. Shortly after Peabody, its subsidiaries, and principals donated over $300000 to the Republican Party, the EPA and Fish and Widlife requests for impact studies were withdrawn. Thanks to the actions of the citizens of Kentucky, the proposed power plant has yet to receive a permit for construction.

The fact that "Paradise" has been adopted by many traditional artists is a testament to the songwriting skills of John Prine and the timeless subject of his song.

Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys - Paradise.mp3

Seldom Scene - Paradise.mp3

John Prine - Paradise.mp3




Note: The Bus is still having conection troubles, but the phone and TV are working now. I suppose 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Please Stand By, Again



The Bus is still plagued with connection problems. My internet connection is rarely up for more than five minutes and for the past few days I have lost the use of my phone.

Comcast says they are working on it, but the service tech was a no show today.

Hopefully, the Bus will be back on the road soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

78 Project: An Odd Find


When our friend Walt brought me the latest batch of 78s from his cousin Wes he made a comment about one of the records being from Sam Phillips’ famous Sun Records. The record was Sun No. 250, Warren Smith, with “Black Jack David” on the A side and “Ubangi Stomp” on the B side.

Now I’m not a big fan of ‘50s pop rockabilly, I was familiar with the name, Warren Smith, but couldn’t place any songs with the name. I do know both of the songs on this record, and I was a bit surprised to see them on a record from Sun. I did a little research and found that Warren Smith was somewhat of an “also ran” artist.

Warren Smith was born on February 7, 1932 in Humphreys County Mississippi. After a stint in the Air Force, he moved to Memphis looking for his big break in music. The Snearly Ranch Boys were regular performers at the Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas. One February evening in 1956 the band was joined by a young country singer from Mississippi with a powerful, bluesy voice. Stan Kesler, the band’s steel player and songwriter, felt that their new singer had potential to do more than sing with a house band in West Memphis and called Sam Phillips. One night, Sam Phillips showed up at the Cotton Club with Johnny Cash to hear this singer themselves. During a break in the music, Warren Smith joined Cash and Phillips at a table. The story goes that Cash offered to let Smith record a song that he thought was more suitable for Smith’s style. The song, “Rock 'n' Roll Ruby”, was recorded by Smith and the Snearly Ranch Boys at the Sun studio. Sam Phillips was pleased with the record and released it (Sun 239) with the country tear jerker, “I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry” on the B side.

Thanks to lots of air play from local DJs and plenty of personal appearances, “Rock 'n' Roll Ruby” was soon number 1 on the Memphis charts. To promote the record Phillips sent Warren Smith, along with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Eddie Bond, Roy Orbison, and the Teen Kings on a week long tour around the Memphis clubs. The record sold an amazing 68,000 copies in the first two months, more than any of Sam Phillips’ artists, including Elvis, had sold as a debut release!

Sam Phillips thought he might have another major star in his fold and sent Orbison and Smith on a summer tour of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi to raise an interest. On his return from the whirlwind tour of the South, Warren Smith determined that he was a fast rising star and didn’t need the Snearly Ranch Boys any longer. He broke with the band and assembled a new band. It was this new band that accompanied Smith in the studio for a second release. Sun 250 with a restyled take on the old English ballad “Black Jack Davey”, and a song from Charles Underwood, a student at Memphis State University with some racist lyrics that Smith wasn’t all that comfortable with, “Ubangi Stomp” was released on September 24, 1956. The record sold only 38,000 copies despite good reviews from Billboard.

Once again, Warren Smith hit the road. 1957 started with another tour of Sam Phillips’ artists. This time Warren Smith was joined by Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and a cocky newcomer that pounded his piano and stole every show, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Smith continued to remain on the edge of fame with a few more moderately successful releases over the next few years. Around 1959, Smith had decided to try his luck in California. He moved out to Sherman Oaks, following his buddy, Johnny Cash, and recorded a few albums with Liberty Records. During 1960 and ’61 he had a few hits, peaking out around number 7 on the charts. Even though he was finally starting to see some success from his music, things began to unravel for Warren Smith. He had always been bitter about Jerry Lee Lewis stealing his thunder on that early tour, in fact he seemed to blame others for his lack of stardom. Under Cash’s influence, he became addicted to amphetamines. He started missing shows and was arrested on a regular basis. Liberty had plenty of popular artists turning out hits and didn’t need the risk of an addicted, unreliable country singer. Liberty dropped Smith from their roster.

On 17th August 1965 in LeGrange, Texas, Smith skidded off Highway 77 landing hard on an embankment. Smith was hospitalized and spent most of a year recuperating. After his recovery he recorded a few records on small independent labels that didn’t have the sales force or distribution of Sun or Liberty.

Warren Smith took a job as a Safety Director at a factory in Texas playing music at local clubs on weekends. In 1976, he was invited to perform at a rockabilly revival show in England. The show was a success and gave Smith hope for a renewed career. Unfortunately, he suffered a massive heart attack and died at the age of 47, before he could return to England for a tour.

That out-of-place Sun record in Wes' collection reminds me to enjoy the things that I have. Most of us don't get a second chance. It has long been my philosophy to make the best of, and enjoy what you have. Warren Smith had more than most of us can ever hope for and it was never quite enough.


Warren Smith - Black Jack David.mp3

Warren Smith - Ubangi Stomp.mp3

Once again, thanks to Wes for sharing his collection with the riders on the Bus.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sounds of Virginia:The Ward Family


What a great weekend! The third, and final, year for the National Folk Festival in Richmond was an outstanding success. Three days of beautiful weather to enjoy seven stages spread out on Brown’s Island and along Richmond’s beautiful, although dry, riverfront.

Even though the organizers estimate that over 175,000 people came out to the festival, I managed to get close to the stages for several artists that I was particularly interested in. The highlight for me was the Autoharp workshop with Bryan Bowers and Mike Seeger. Bryan Bowers is originally from this area, but now that he lives in the Pacific Northwest I don’t get to see him perform as often as I’d like to.

Another native Virginia show at the festival was the Piedmont Blues of Cephus & Wiggins. I have seen Bowling Green John Cephus and Phil Wiggins perform dozens of times and each show is just as exciting as the first.

Over the weekend I made it to two of Wayne Henderson’s performances. Legendary guitarist and guitar builder, Wayne Henderson, is from Rugby, Virginia.

Although the festival features music and artists from all around the world, I was pleased to see so many of Virginia’s musical treasures represented.

While wondering around the festival this past weekend I overheard a small group of younger folk (college students, I assume) talking about Galax and the Old Fiddler’s Convention. Their conversation centered on the belief that the area around Galax, Virginia seemed to be a wellspring of talent. That got me to thinking about the distribution of talent along the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I suppose to these young folks, Galax would seem to be a wellspring of talent, but I don’t believe that Galax has produced any more talent than any other area when it comes to old time music. It may seem that way since the Old Fiddler’s Convention, first held in 1934, is one of the largest and longest running fiddler’s conventions. Folklorists and students of old time music have been making the annual pilgrimage to Galax since the early 1960s. The convention is an especially rich source of traditional culture and over the years has taken on an almost religious mystic. In the past few years the convention has taken on more of a mass party atmosphere, sort of a mountain blend of Mardi Gras and Woodstock, but the competition is as hot as ever.

Perhaps it is the Old Fiddler’s Convention that leads people to think that Galax holds a special place in old time music, but I would contend that the pool of wonderful talent covers a much larger area. Patrick, Grayson, and Russell County, Virginia and neighboring Surrey County, North Carolina have all produced extremely talented and influential artists during the critical years of the 1920s-‘30s. The area was heavily scouted by both record companies and folklorist from the Library of Congress Archives of American Folksong and more recordings were made there than any other area in the country during those two important decades.

That said, Galax has produced its share of legendary musicians. One family in particular stands out in my mind. Davey Crockett Ward, his brother Wade, and Crockett’s son Fields Ward recorded over 200 songs. Most of those recordings are part of the collection at the Library of Congress, but a few were recorded and released by commercial record companies.

Crockett Ward was a competition winning mountain fiddler who was often joined by the more sophisticated fiddle style of family friend Alec ‘Uncle Eck’ Dunford. Crockett’s son, Fields Ward, played guitar and provided the vocals most of the time. Crockett’s brother, Wade Ward, played banjo for the group. Crockett, Wade, and Fields played in a band known as Crockett Ward and His Boys. Uncle Eck was the fiddler and vocalist for the Blue Ridge Cornshuckers.

Crockett lived in a cabin along the muddy Ballards Branch just a few miles from Galax. When the Ward boys joined forces with Uncle Eck, it was the family doctor, W.P. Davis, who was also the band’s manager and sometime Autoharp player that came up with the band’s name. Cursing each time he made the muddy trip up Ballards Branch to the Ward cabin he dubbed the band The Ballards Branch Bogtrotters.

Crockett Ward And His Boys - Ain't That Trouble In Mind.mp3

Wade Ward - Married Man's Blues.mp3

Kilby Snow and Wade Ward - She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain.mp3

Uncle Eck Dunford & Hattie Stoneman - What Will I Do For My Money's All Gone.mp3

Ballards Branch Bogtrotters - Deadheads and Suckers.mp3

Ballards Branch Bogtrotters - Fortune.mp3

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Release: Chris Bergson Band - Fall Changes

I don’t usually feature jazz releases on the Bus. Then again, Chris Bergson’s new release Fall Changes covers so many genres of American music that is defies categories.

Brooklyn-based guitarist/singer/songwriter Chris Bergson has played with such jazz greats as Annie Ross, Dena DeRose, and Norah Jones. His two jazz CDs on the Juniper label received wide acclaim and he has appeared on many other releases as a sideman.

In 2002, Bergson was appointed a Jazz Ambassador of the United States by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the U.S. State Department. His trio was sent on a tour of eight countries performing concerts and holding clinics for local musicians.

His critically acclaimed 2005 release, Another Day, was a showcase for his own brand of contemporary Americana where “...funk, soul, blues, folk and delectable jazz come together seamlessly” (All About Jazz).

With Fall Changes Chris Bergson takes listeners on a tour of the many sounds of the blues. Starting with the Muscle Shoals influenced “Gowanus Heights” Bergson then shifts smoothly into the blues/rock “Float Your Mind”. This celebration of the different flavors of the blues continues with each song until the sounds of New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, the Delta, and more, are covered.

Chris Bergson is a dynamic, masterful guitar player. His guitar is smooth and articulate, never overpowering or tiresome. Add to this his warm, soulful vocals and an incredible assembly of backing musicians making Fall Changes one of the most dynamic and impressive new blues releases I’ve heard in years.

Chris Bergson Band - Fall Changes.mp3

Chris Bergson Band - Rain Beatin' Down.mp3

Chris Bergson Band - Fall Changes
website: www.chrisbergson.com
label: 2 Shirts Records
CDs and downloads available from:
CDBaby
Amazon.com
MySpace


Y'all have a good weekend!
I'll be at the National Folk Festival all weekend. If you are within driving distance it's worth the trip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Malvina Reynolds Sang the Truth

The songs of Malvina Reynolds inspired a generation to push for justice during an unjust time. Although she didn’t start her musical career until she was in her late forties, she was an icon to those who didn’t “trust anyone over thirty.”

Malvina Reynolds was born on August 23, 1900 in San Francisco to Jewish immigrants. At a time when few women went to college, Malvina Reynolds earned her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English at the University of California, Berkey and earned her doctorate there in 1938.

Her parents had been socialists and opposed to WWI, her husband, William Reynolds, was a carpenter and communist organizer. She had seen first hand the effects of the Great Depression, the migration of Dust Bowl refugees, the plight of the farm and cannery workers, the interment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and the Red Scare.

According to her daughter, she had always wanted to teach, but never followed up on her dream. When she met Pete Seeger and other folk musicians in the 1950s her life took a new direction. She went back to school, this time to study music theory.

She began writing songs that reflected her beliefs in justice and humanity. Her studies in English and music and her experiences in life gave her the ability to write powerful, insightful songs about the injustices and wrongs she felt so strongly about.

Malvina Reynolds passed away March 17, 1978 at the age of 77 and performed until just a few days before her death.

Sadly, many of the topics that Malvina Reynolds wrote and sang about are still as pertinent today as they were forty years ago.

Malvina Reynolds – There’ll Come A Time.mp3

Malvina Reynolds – We Hate To See Them Go.mp3
Bad skip, sorry.

Malvina Reynolds – Little Boxes.mp3

Malvina Reynolds – Somewhere Between.mp3
There has been a lot of mention of “Good” and “Evil” in the past few years. Most of those talking the loudest have been shouting from behind airport bathroom stalls and the madam’s boudoirs of Washington, D.C. I tend to believe that we are all “Somewhere Between.”

YouTube Video: Malvina Reynolds - No Hole in My Head

From: Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger (No. 6)
Yes, that's Ramblin' Jack Elliott at the table with Pete and Malvina.

Most of Malvina Reynolds' recording are long out of print. Some individual songs have been released on various compilation CDs.
A few years ago, Smithsonian Folkways repackaged and remastered 23 great recordings by Malvina Reynolds from the 1960s and '70s. The CD Ear To The Ground is available from Smithsonian Folkways.



Thanks to our friend, Dan, for the inspiration for today’s post.
Also, I owe a tip of the hat to our friend, Jim H., for the idea for Monday's post. I'm putting something more substantial together, Jim, thanks for the idea.

Please Stand By




We are experiencing some technical difficulty, once again.
Last night my ISP upgraded the file storage capabilities, where I keep the music files on the Bus. As with most all of the upgrades they've performed, nothing is working now.
I'll get the Bus back on the road as soon as Comcast finds the problem.



UPDATE:
File links have been fixed and the Bus is back on the road.

Monday, October 08, 2007

My River

The Virginia State Fair ended this past weekend and the National Folk Festival starts this coming weekend. For the past dozen years or so it has been common knowledge that if it’s State Fair time, it must be fixing to rain. For the past dozen years the fair has been dampened by rain. Last year’s National Folk Festival was also cool and damp.

The temperatures at the fair this past weekend were in the 90s and it has been so dry for so long, I can’t remember the last time it rained. The rivers are dry. We have been under water use restrictions for some time now.

In the photo above, my younger son and I are playing at our favorite spot on the Appomattox River. Picnic Rapid has a large water-worn rock mid river that creates a wonderful hole with a strong standing wave behind it.

The photo above was taken about this time last year. Contrast that with this photo, taken this year.
This is the same spot, although shot from a different angle, as the photo above. The large rock just left of center in this picture is the cause of our favorite play hole and wave above. It is completely exposed, surrounded by not much more than a trickle.

For the past few years the river has not been as full in October. Each year there has been a little less water to drink, wash our clothes, irrigate crops, and to paddle.

Woody Guthrie - The Great Dust Storm.mp3

Pete Seeger - The Faucets Are Dripping.mp3

The Country Gentlemen - Come and Sit by the River.mp3

Tom Paxton - My River.mp3

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Cacthing up on some new releases

New CDs arrive at the Bus every week. Most are sent by independent artists looking for a little exposure and I am happy to help out in my small way if I feel the music is something the riders on the Bus will be interested in.

Lately, the major labels have been using small promotional companies to get their new releases mentioned on audio blogs such as the Old Blue Bus and other fine blogs listed in the panel on the right side of this page. I have a few problems with this arrangement. First, it is the RIAA and its music conglomerate membership that is raising such Hell and stalking people who post and download music via the internet. Second, there is very little contemporary commercial music that I like and I would venture that the riders on the Bus have a similar taste in music, or you wouldn’t be here. Third, thanks to a cozy arrangement with the massive conglomerates that have taken control of our airwaves, only the music of the major labels gets heard on the radio in 99% of the markets in the U.S. And lastly, I make arrangements with each artist about posting their music here on the Bus. I have never been granted permission to post any music from a major label release and seeing how courtroom-happy their RIAA is, I wouldn’t even consider asking.

Recently, I have gotten a couple of emails asking why I have not posted a review of the CDs that were sent to me weeks ago. So, here goes. The following are CDs that have arrived at the Bus in the past few weeks and my thoughts on each. No mp3 files will accompany these reviews since I was not given permission to post any. Of course, if you want to hear any of these new releases, just turn on your radio and spin the dial, they are sure to be playing on every other station you come across.

Reba McEntire - Reba Duets (MCA Nashville)
Pop-country veteran, Reba McEntire has released a new CD of duets with a somewhat odd assortment of collaborators including LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, Carole King, Faith Hill, Vince Gill, Rascal Flats, Ronnie Dunn, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny Chesney, Don Henley, and Justin Timberlake. The result is what you would expect of a contemporary commercial country record with soaring strings, driving guitars and tear-jerking lyrics. There is one song on the album that sounds like a real country song (before the CMA blended country with pop to suit a wider audience) and it is the only song written by Reba (with Ronnie Dunn). “Does The Wind Still Blow In Oklahoma” is a beautiful song that harkens back to when country was ‘Country & Western’ music. With such a powerful voice, Reba would do well to return to her roots. Reba Duets is current #1 on the Billboard Country charts.

Crystal Gayle – Greatest Hits (Capitol)
The small record label, Curb Records, released a CD entitled “Crystal Galye’s All-Time Greatest Hits in 1990. Of the twelve songs included on the album, I recognized one, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”. Now Capitol Records has found 25 songs to include on this new release, and yes, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” is on this one too.

Gene Watson – In A Perfect World (Shanachie Records)
Another country veteran, Gene Watson is best known for his ballads. He had a string of top 40 hits in the 1970s and early ‘80s. His music was classic ‘70s country until the folks at Capitol, then Epic and finally, Warner Brothers molded his sound to suit the more modern country sound. Now signed with Ireland’s independent Shanachie Records, Gene Watson once again has control of his music. This album of '70s style country ballads is a pleasing alternative to the other CDs reviewed here today.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sounds of Virginia: New Roanoke Jug Band


New Release!
New Roanoke Jug Band
"When My Time On Earth Is Done"


The New Roanoke Jug Band pays homage to the great musicians of the past with more than just their name. These guys have a real passion for traditional music that comes through in their new CD, ”When My Time On Earth Is Done”.
Hailing from an area with such a long, rich musical history, NRJB has embraced that tradition and made it their own. Their influences are varied, but lean more toward the music of Will Shade & the Memphis Jug Band than it does the original Roanoke Jug Band. Yes, they’ve got a jug blower, earning the right to call themselves a jug band. In fact, you’ll hear jug, washboard, and kazoo on this tasty CD.

The New Roanoke Jug Band is comprised of the core duo of Scott Baldwin (guitar, slide guitar, jug, banjo and vocals) and Jay Griffin (fiddle, washboard, kazoo, and vocals). The band has recently gone through some personnel changes, and the current members compliment each other well, making for some wonderful arrangements that come together naturally yet still retains that porch pickin’ flavor. Rounding out the NRJB sound are; Andrew Thomas (bass, accordion, and backing vocals), Jeff Hoffman (bowed double bass – an unexpected addition that adds an awesome effect to “Rock Me Chariot”), and Sam Lunsford (banjo, guitar, harmonica, and percussion).

The band touts the new CD as the “first ever jug band gospel CD”. It’s hard to argue with that claim, but their interpretation of gospel is a bit loose. The liner notes say “The songs on this album explore life’s ultimate question from different perspectives. They express the full range of human emotions: hope and faith, doubt and regret, resignation and fear, and even defiant disbelief.” The selection of songs is both eclectic and satisfying, NRJB have done their research and handpicked songs that fit the theme of the CD as expressed in the statement above. There is an incredible variety of music here, from raw, almost primitive a cappella spiritual and jubilant tent revival gospel to remorseful country blues.

Speaking of liner notes, the packaging of ”When My Time On Earth Is Done” is very nicely done. Pleasing to the eye and includes a six page booklet describing each song, its history, and the reason it was included.

”When My Time On Earth Is Done” has not left my CD player since it arrived last week, and has made it impossible for anyone hearing it to sit still. Now, I won’t claim that it cured that nasty cold I had, but I’ll have to admit that I have felt much better with each listen.

Track List:
Lord I Don’t Want to Die in The Storm
Kingdom’s Come
Ain’t Gonna Lay My Armor Down
Grandin Village
Woke Up This Morning
Jugband Prayer of Death
When I Get Home I’m Gonna Be Satisfied
Man of Constant Sorrow
Thou Carest Lord
I Shall Not Be Moved
Wish I’d-a Heard ‘Em
In That Morning
Rock Me Chariot
Burnin’ Hell
Be Ready When the Bridegroom Comes
Heaven’s Airplane
I’ll Be Rested
Heaven Bound

Have a drink of the New Roanoke Jug Band...

New Roanoke Jug Band – Heaven’s Airplane.mp3

New Roanoke Jug Band – I’ll Be Rested.mp3

New Roanoke Jug Band – “When My Time On Earth Is Done” is available from County Sales.
Highly Recommended!

Y'all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sounds of Virginia: Roanoke Jug Band


Each time I visit Roanoke I stop in at the amazing Virginia Museum of Transportation. The museum is located adjacent to the original Norfolk & Western (now Norfolk Southern) Roanoke Works. The N&W was known across the country for its steam locomotives, and the Roanoke Works, with its thousands of employees, designed, built and maintained their famous A, J, and Y6 class locomotives. In fact, long after most railroads had turned to diesel-electric for locomotion the N&W stayed true to steam and continued to build new locomotives at the Roanoke Works until 1953.

The railroad and the coal that it hauled made Roanoke attractive to manufacturers and the area became a major manufacturing center. In 1917 American Viscose built a large rayon fiber plant in Southeast Roanoke. At its peak the plant employed over 5,000 workers.

The Roanoke Jug Band was formed primarily by employees at the American Viscose rayon plant. During the work week they toiled as machinists, carpenters, and other tradesmen, but come the weekend they were playing at the dance halls and square dances throughout the city. The Roanoke Jug Band were: Ray Barger (guitar), Mahon Overstreet (guitar), Clyde Dooley (banjo), Walter Keith (banjo), Billy Altizer (fiddle), and Richard Mitchell (banjo-mandolin). Notice that there was not one jug blower listed! The band used the name for its novelty effect. For each show they would place a jug on the stage. One would assume that they had passed that jug amongst themselves backstage before the show.

The Roanoke Jug Band performed at dances, civic events, and also on Roanoke’s WDBJ radio station. In 1929 they were invited to ride on one of those N&W trains to Richmond for a recording session with Okeh Records. It was their first time playing more than fifty miles from Roanoke. The session yielded four sides, all of which were issued by Okeh.

The Roanoke Jug Band returned to their day jobs and weekend gigs in Roanoke and continued to play well into the Great Depression. Roanoke, because of its large industrial base, was not as hard hit as other areas during the Depression. In fact it was increasing hours at work, and the need to spend some time with family that finally forced the members to disband. A sentiment I am all too familiar with lately.

The Digital Library of Appalachia has some wonderful interviews with Ray Barger recorded in 1977, click here for the list.

Roanoke Jug Band - Johnny Lover.mp3
A dance tune complete with calls.

Roanoke Jug Band - Triangle Blues.mp3
A lively little number.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sounds of Virginia: Dee Stone


Ever since I posted the rare 78 by Dee Stone with Ted Prillaman and the Virginia Ramblers from our friend Wes’ great record collection (for the original post click here), I have heard from a few riders on the Bus with a little more information on Dee Stone and Ted Prillaman. Scott Baldwin, guitarist and jug blower with the talented New Roanoke Jug Band (more about the NRJB later this week) wrote to tell me that their fiddler/washboard player, Jay Griffin, last saw Ted Prillaman and the Virginia Ramblers play in the 1970s. He reports that Gray Craig was playing fiddle with the Ramblers at that time. Another rider, Chuck, sent me a few cuts by Dee Stone, two of which I did not have. Then I heard from the man who so kindly leant the record for us to share. Wes says he remembers that Dee Stone owned a record company in Roanoke.

So, it looks like Roanoke, the “Star City of the South”, is the next stop for the Old Blue Bus.
Roanoke was originally established as the village of Big Lick in 1852. Square in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, halfway between the northern end in Maryland and the southern end in Tennessee, and located along the Roanoke River, Big Lick was well located as a transportation hub. In the early 1880s, the Shenandoah Valley Railroad and the Norfolk and Western Railway selected Big Lick as the junction of the two roads. The village of Big Lick became the town of Roanoke in 1882. As the railroad brought jobs and people to the area Roanoke quickly became a bustling city. In 1884 Roanoke was chartered as an independent city. The growth of Roanoke was so fast that it was nicknamed the “Magic City.”

The story of Dee Stone and the odd Liberty label on the record has piqued my interest, so I have attempted to do a little research on my own. Dee Stone, a Roanoke native, was a very popular fiddler in the years following WWII. Stone did own a record company as Wes had remembered, but the name of the short-lived label was Mutual Records. Mutual operated out of Roanoke around 1948-1949 and lasted not much more than a year. According to a wonderfully researched article by music writer, Dick Spottswood, for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, Feb. 2005 issue, “Dee Stone’s own Mutual label began in 1948-1949 in southwest Virginia and joined forces with a California speculator who contributed some local music. Mutual lasted for a year or less; its releases are rarely seen today.” (To read the full article “RICH-R-TONE, MUTUAL, AND BLUE RIDGE: HISTORIES AND INVENTORIES” click here.)

This leads one to wonder: could that “California speculator” have been Simon Waronker, founder of the famous Liberty Records in California? Waronker didn’t start Liberty Records until 1955. The dates don’t work out. But for a label known mostly for its pop releases, I’ve noticed some odd listings in the early Liberty catalog. Perhaps one of the other founders of Liberty dabbled in the small record company from Roanoke before joining forces with Waronker.
Examples from the Liberty catalog:
LRP-3004 - I Hear a Rhapsody - John Duffy (1955)
LRP-3011 - Songs for a Lazy Afternoon - Rod McKuen (1956)
LRP-3031 - Moods for 5 P.M. - John Duffy (1957)
LRP-3357/LST-7357 - 5 String Banjo Greats - Various Artists (1964)

I am probably way off the trail here, but there has to be an explanation of the odd Liberty label Dee Stone used on this record when the name of his record company was Mutual. I have found a few leads in Roanoke that I hope can help clear up this mystery. I’ll keep everyone on the Bus up to date should I find a fresh trail.

The area of southwest Virginia, northeast Tennessee, east Kentucky, northeast North Carolina, and south West Virginia is a fairly small area of rugged mountains and is steeped in musical traditions. These old, locally produced and thinly distributed records from the area represent some of the finest in traditional Bluegrass and would be lost forever if not for collectors such as Wes.

My thanks to Wes, Chuck, and Scott for their contributions.

Dee Stone with Ted Prillaman’s Virginia Ramblers – Square Dance Polka.mp3
The mysteriously labeled record from Wes’ collection that started this journey.

Dee Stone & his Melody Hillbillies – Pilot Mountain Rag.mp3

Dee Stone & his Melody Hillbillies – Mountain Swing.mp3

Dee Stone & his Melody Hillbillies – Highway 220.mp3

True treasures from the basement!

The Roanoke Star was erected on top of Mill Mountain in 1949. Mill Mountain is within the city limits and the star, lit every night, can be seen from most of the city and valley.


Just a note of trivia: Liberty Records was founded by chairman Simon Waronker, president Alvin Bennett, and chief engineer Theodore Keep. Ross Bagdasarian (also known as David Seville), named his “Chipmunks” cartoon characters after the Liberty Records executives: Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. All of the “Chipmunks” records were on the Liberty label.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sounds of Virginia: G.B. Grayson & Henry Whitter


While we are down in the southwest corner of Virginia I would be remiss not to mention two of my favorite Old Time performers and, in my humble opinion, two of the most influential songwriters and collectors of mountain music.

Down in Grayson County is a little town that is well known to Old Time music enthusiasts. Fries, (pronounced “freeze”) Virginia may be a small town (current population around 600), but it is known to all as the home of Henry Whitter.

Henry Whitter was a millworker who turned to music for his livelihood. Whitter was one of the first mountain musicians to use a harmonica rack so that he could play guitar and harmonica at the same time. He was also amongst the first country artists to record commercially. His 1923 version of the now classic ”The Wreck of the Southern Old 97” was a good seller and provided Vernon Dalhart with the material to record the song the following year and make it the first country record to sell multi-million copies. In fact, a good number of Henry Whitter’s songs have gone on to be considered standards of both Old Time and Country music and a few have made the transgression to Bluegrass as well.

While attending the 1927 fiddler’s convention in Mountain City, Tennessee Whitter met up with Gilliam Banmon (G.B.) Grayson and one of the most influential, and unfortunately short-lived, partnerships was born. Fiddler and singer G.B. Grayson was born in nearby Ashe County, North Carolina. Legally blind since he was a small child, Grayson relied on his mastery of the fiddle for his livelihood. Grayson was a traveling musician playing throughout the Southern Appalachians at fairs, barn dances, and other events. He was also a regular entrant, and often winner, at fiddler’s conventions throughout the mountains.

Over the following three years G.B. Grayson & Henry Whitter recorded an impressive 40 songs. Their recording of ”Handsome Molly” sold over 50,000 copies! The recordings made by G.B. Grayson & Henry Whitter had a tremendous effect on country music and still does to this day. The songs they recorded during those short three years read like the title page from a guide to Old Time Country music: "Tom Dula" (Tom Dooley), "Cluck Old Hen", "Rose Conley", "Omie Wise", "Banks of the Ohio", "Little Maggie", "The Nine Pound Hammer", and of course, "Going Down The Lee Highway" (Lee Highway Blues), to name a few. The songs that Grayson & Whitter recorded have been covered by such diverse artists as Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, the Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan, and Mick Jagger.

Sadly, this remarkable partnership was brought to a sudden close on August 16, 1930. G.B. Grayson had walked from his home in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee to visit his brother in nearby Virginia. On his return trip he was offered a ride by neighbor Bill Millhorn. Milhorn drove a little one seat roadster, so Grayson stood outside the car on the runningboard for the ride back to Laurel Bloomery. While rounding a curve on US Hwy 58 south of Damascus, Virginia Milhorn’s car collided with a heavily loaded log truck, throwing Grayson from the runningboard and killing him. Henry Whitter was devastated by the news and performed only a few rare appearances during the remainder of his life.

The songs that these two recorded during those amazing three years have gone on to be some of the most recognizable songs in the history of American music. I have long been a fan and collector of Henry Whitter and G. B. Grayson, that is why I was so excited when I saw Whitter's 1924 release "Lonesome Road Blues" amongst the stacks of 78s loaned to me by our friend Walt's cousin Wes. Once again, thanks go to Wes for sharing his wonderful collection with us.

Henry Whitter - Lonesome Road Blues.mp3

Henry Whitter - The Dollar and The Devil.mp3

Grayson & Whitter - Rose Conley.mp3

Grayson & Whitter - Tom Dooley.mp3

Grayson & Whitter - Going Down The Lee High Way.mp3