big-bend-killingVARIOUS ARTISTS

GSMA 200973

   Ballads are stories set to melodies. They are also a viable means of noting historical facts and telling archetypical truths. As one might imagine, the material here is all first-rate. It has stood the test of time and has remained flexible enough to withstand reinterpretation countless times. The singers here range from the rather obscure to those readers who are not following modern balladry to names that will be quite recognizable by readers of this fine periodical. Archie Fisher, a fine British ballad singer shows up here, as does Martin Simpson, reminding us of the strong ties to the Old World in this art form.

Names from the old-time side of the music include Carol Elizabeth Jones, Alice Gerrard, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, David Holt, Bruce Greene, Sheila Kay Adams, Laura Boosinger, and John Lilly. The big names here are Rosanne Cash and Doyle Lawson. There are many fine ballad singers here including Donna Ray Norton, Corbin Hayslett, Bobby McMillon, John Lilly, the fine young Elizabeth LaPrelle of Southwest Virginia and newcomer, Amythyst Kiah. The range is wide and the 32 ballads are spellbinding.

Even when a ballad is repeated, as is “Barbry Allen” and “Barbara Allen,” they are different enough to be intriguing. The first CD of this two-CD set focuses on our ties to the old country. The second disc present ballads that are of and about American stories. It’s interesting to hear Carter Family member Dale Jett sing the Carter Family classic “The Cyclone Of Rye Cove” cast in a minor key with a sad but softened sound. It was his family who put three chords to the truth. Here, he casts his story in a new sonic light.

An in-depth booklet is included in the packaging with extensive notes and information, along with the lyrics to the ballads. This is an important and highly successful project worthy of your attention. (Great Smoky Mountains Assoc., P.O. Box 130, Gatlinburg, TN 37738,

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