THE LEGACY OF ROSCOE HOLCOMB
Roscoe Holcomb (1911-1981) was the legendary old-time banjo player whose powerful vocals inspired John Cohen to coin the phrase the “high lonesome sound” back in 1962 when he first captured Roscoe on tape for the film of the same name.
The Legacy Of Roscoe Holcomb, a hundred-minute black-and-white DVD, includes The High Lonesome Sound along with Cohen’s 2010 film Roscoe Holcomb From Daisy, Kentucky, as well as scenes from other sources such as Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest. In addition to its focus on Roscoe, who performs solo with banjo or guitar, the compilation examines the mountain culture that birthed such an extraordinary musician.
Roscoe’s own words provide a clue as to the possible reception of this project: “People like different kinds of music. Maybe something I like, somebody else wouldn’t care nothing about it and maybe something they like I wouldn’t care nothing about it. It takes all kind of people to make a world.” So, if you like your music raw and unencumbered with emotionally packed, keening vocals, then you will love this offering which includes “Single Girl,” “Little Birdie, and “Stingy Woman Blues.” If you prefer smoother edges, then perhaps you “won’t care nothing about it.” Bluegrassers will delight in Bill Monroe’s two live, on-stage numbers, “Live And Let Live” and “John Henry.”
Mixed in with all the mountain mournful are clips of a teenage couple doing the twist on Roscoe’s porch, men clogging at the Galax Fiddler’s Convention, and Marion Sumner fiddling for a square dance. But, what I loved most was seeing Roscoe funning with a little girl who was entranced by the drawer knob he put on his head to tease her. His wide smile stands in stark contrast to the overall grimness of the disc (old age, sickness, poverty, lack of jobs) and lets the viewer see the playful side of the man who “shapes every song to his haunted, stoic personality.” (Shanachie Entertainment Corp., 37 E. Clinton St., Newton, NJ 07860.) MHH