featuring Clarence Ashley, Roscoe Holcomb, Tommy Jarrell, Doc Watson, Clint Howard, Fred Price, Pete Steele, Sam McGee, Jean Ritchie and Others
During the folk music revival which spanned the late 1950s to the 1970s, legendary old-time traditional artists were rediscovered, and previously unheard exponents of this tradition were found and brought to perform at folk festivals. It was an exciting epoch which coupled "living legends" like Clarence Ashley and Tommy Jarrell with younger incarnations of the old-time spirit (New Lost City Ramblers, Red Clay Ramblers, etc.) This rare DVD collection presents some of the finest old-time musicians playing in a variety of styles.
Titles include: ROSCOE HOLCOMB Across the Rocky Mountain, Little Birdie, Graveyard Blues, Little Grey Mule, John Hardy CLARENCE ASHLEY Free Little Bird, The Cuckoo SAM McGEE Wheels, Mississippi Sawyer DOC WATSON, CLINT HOWARD & FRED PRICE Way downtown, Daniel Prayed, Lee Highway Blues PETE STEELE Pay Day at Coal Creek, Coal Creek March, Galilee SOMMERS, YOUNG & HOLCOMB Red Apple Rag, Bile Them Cabbage Down, Grey Eagle TOMMY JARRELL John Henry, Drunken Hiccups, John Brown's Dream CORBETT GRIGSBY Pretty Polly JEAN RITCHIE The Cuckoo THE WALKER FAMILY Bowling Green, Hangman, Rollie True Love, I'll Be Somewhere Listening JEAN and EDNA RITCHIE My Pretty Little Miss, The Four Marys.
Running Time: 58 minutes
Review: The folk revival has taken many odd twists and turns, but among the oddest is the disappearance of old-time music from the mainstream consciousness. Many singer-songwriters claim at least a passing acquaintanceship with country blues but names like Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley and Sam McGee are rarely cited. That's a pity, because not only did they make some great music, but they demonstrated a way for white artists to absorb black influences without mimicry or self-consciousness. Holcomb, especially, bids fair to be the greatest white blues singer on record, an artist who absorbed the music of Blind Lemon Jefferson and recycled it into a sound so high and lonesome that it can be almost painful.
This new DVD has five solo cuts by Holcomb, three on guitar and two on banjo, including his aching Little Birdie. Graveyard Blues is a masterpiece, the sort of wrenching performance that defined Holcomb's best work, and Across The Rocky Mountain shows the brilliant idiosyncrasies of his music as the guitar uncannily imitates a banjo sound under Holcomb's high, flat vocal. Clarence Ashley is also shown to fine effect on two favorite numbers, Free Little Bird and The Cuckoo, with expert banjo playing and an interesting interview segment in between. Ashley is backed by Clint Howard and Fred Price, who surface again in three songs with Ashley sidekick Doc Watson, including the a Capella gospel number Daniel Prayed and their trademark Way Downtown. Sam McGee plays his parlor guitar specialty Wheels and does a brief comic imitation of his longtime boss, banjo master Uncle Dave Macon, flicking his tongue along with his frailing. More fine instrumental work comes from Tommy Jarrell, who plays a John Henry on fretless banjo that sounds like the father of blues slide guitar, then tosses off a fine fiddle and voice version of Drunken Hiccups.
For ballad fans, Jean Ritchie appears both alone and with her sister Edna. The latter cuts are particularly charming, the two voices blending with sororal precision and Edna supplying arch humor in the courting duet My Pretty Little Miss. The Walker Family plays four songs in the Carter tradition, all unfortunately very short, and Holcomb surfaces again playing behind guitarist Martin Young and the jazzy fiddling of Marion Sommers at an old-time square dance. Pete Steele, a major influence on Pete Seeger, plays two banjo pieces showing off his unusual, minstrel-influenced technique.All in all, this is a superb set. Old-time fans have been waiting a long time for the chance to see this sort of music on video, and its appeal should reach anyone who can appreciate sincerity, soul and musical artistry. - Sing Out!