‘Appalachia: Music from Home’ CD reviewed

Posted by | May 11, 2009

Please welcome guest blogger Will Benson (wbenson@clevelandstatecc.edu), Assistant Professor of Music, Cleveland State Community College in Cleveland, TN.

This is a extremely and rich diverse collection of Appalachian music. The opening track, Prelude: Mountains, is written by regional composer Kenton Coe. From the moment track one starts, it immediately puts the listener right the heart of the Tennessee/North Carolina section of the Appalachian Mountains. Listening carefully for every tone color of the U.T Symphony, I began to hear what sounded like scratching or clicking just under ninety seconds into the track. My first thought was, “Oh well, this must be a defective disc”. To my surprise and delight, the first track immediately segued into the Seneca Indian Corn Dance. Apparently the sound I thought was a technical defect was actually the shaking of some sort of instrument with dried corn kernels inside.

The remainder of the CD takes the listener through the many different flavors of Appalachian music, including truly authentic performances of folk songs such as Jean Ritchie’s raw performance of Pretty Saro, Dock Bogg’s rendition of Coal Creek March on the banjo, and the Earl Monroe classic Nine Pound Hammer by the Midnight Ramblers. Perhaps one of the most stirring tracks on the whole CD is Ralph Stanley’s performance of Gloryland. So many of his performances and recordings are considered some of the best in the history of bluegrass and folk music. Still, one has to give credit where credit is due. Ralph Stanley is Appalachia/Americana, case closed.

Darrell Scott leads the list of contemporary performances through his presentation of Banjo Clark. That is not to say that this performances is void of ties to the past, but folks who know Darrell Scott know that he has a wonderfully soulful voice and musical style that makes any song sound new.

Not having seen the PBS documentary from where this compilation is derived, I am at a bit of a disadvantage of getting the full effect of connecting the music to specific graphic images and/or inverviews from the documentary. However, the variety of songs, voices and instruments on this CD create a wonderful representation of the music of our region. I recommend it to anyone wanting to understand our musical heritage.

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