CD 302: Comin' Round the Mountain

What the Reviewers Say

BEST OLD-TIME LP (New Recording) 1. VOYAGER-302 COMIN' ROUND THE MOUNTAIN Music from Western Washington. Well-produced LP of 20 performances by former Southerners now living on West Coast. Some surprisingly good music here. (Country Sales Newsletter, Best of Year, 1969)

*****

Another Voyager offering is "Comin' Round the Mountain" (VRLP 302), a recording of Southern traditional singers who now live in Washington State. Both the familiar ("Pretty Polly," "Cumberland Gap," "You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley") and the less familiar ("I'll Live in Glory," "The Drunken Driver," "Some Forty Years Ago") are well done and very listenable. This is my favorite Voyager Album. (Pickin' Singin' Gatherin')

*****

"Comin' Round the Mountain" offers fiddle and banjo tunes, sacred songs, and other songs performed by former residents of southern and southeastern states. In content, this record is similar to "The Green Fields of Illinois," earlier released by the Campus Folksong Club of the University of Illinois. The material is drawn primarily from old-time and hillbilly tradition and illustrates, once again, the pervasive effect of phonograph records on traditional performers. Bill Pruett sings grandpa Jones' "Eight More Miles to Louisville" and Grady Mills sings Molly O'Day's "The Drunken Driver." There are good performances here, attesting to a strong tradition. Also, indirectly attested to is the influence of the regional folklore and folksong society in providing an audience for traditional performers. A number of the selections on this album were recorded at concerts sponsored by the Seattle Folklore Society (Journal of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington)

*****

An album of folk, oldtime, and bluegrass played by persons who have migrated from N. Carolina, Kentucky & Missouri to Western Washington. Notable is Johnson Boys played 2 times on record by Henry Vanoy (once as a banjo solo & once as a fiddle solo) (also Cumberland Gap appearing 2 times by different groups). This album is a must for old time music fans. (Disc Collector)

*****

Comin' Round the Mountain: Old Time Southern Singing and Playing in Western Washington is a far different presentation. The very active Seattle Folklore Society recorded most of the items at concerts in 1968. Some of the material will rival any field recordings from the Ozarks of Appalachia, and well they should, since the performers are transplanted Southerners. The two finest performances are "I'll Live in Glory Someday" by the Mills Family, who are originally from Sylva, North Carolina, and an absolutely touching and marvelous version of Molly O'Day's "The Drunken Driver" by Grady Mills. Equally interesting is Missourian Ellis Cowan's "Old Coon Dog," which he fiddles and sings; it is one of the few recorded "coon" songs that had such a rage of popularity around the turn of the century. The tradition of the guitar-mandolin duet is represented by Fred McFalls and Ben Bryson, also of Sylva. In all fairness, they have not achieved the vocal clarity that is demanded of those who emulate the Monroes, the Blue Sky Boys, or Bob and Mac. They do the Delmore-Macon "Just one Way" and "Lonesome Valley." The oldest performers, both in their eighties, are Roy Caudill and Henry Valoy of Sparta, North Carolina. They play rather straight-forward banjo-fiddle duets in the pre-Charley Poole style. Some very intricate clawhammer banjo techniques are displayed in five tunes by Paul Wiley. Guitarist Bill Pruett shows two distinct major influences, influences I have heard in many performers over the U.S.: Grandpa Jones, who wrote Pruett's selection, "Eight More Miles to Louisville," and Merle Travis, in whose style Pruett plays.

Although the album is thoroughly entertaining, it raises some important questions and problems. One, why is the music of the old home so important to the people that they will preserve it in an alien environment, for sometimes more than half a century, and two, why aren't we as folklorists doing more in the cities to collect from the disenfranchised? (William Henry Koon, California State College at Fullerton, in the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin)

*****

Being a transplanted Washingtonian myself it's a real pleasure to see some of the traditional Southern Music that has wound its way to that area recorded. This is a real pleasant recording with a lot of variety. Paul Wiley is a traditional banjo interpreter of no little ability, and old timers Roy Caudill & Henry Vanoy are a delight on both banjo & fiddle. The Mills Family sings old fashioned Southern Gospel music and Grady Mills gives out a fine version of "The Drunken Driver". Ellis Cowen is a fiddler and gives out with two fine tunes. Paul Wiley also sings a fine unaccompanied ballad ("Some Forty Years Ago") which was learned from his mother. Bill Pruett plays a finger style guitar and picks "Eight More Miles to Louisville" in the style of Grandpa Jones. "The Pacific Northwest", it says in the liner notes, "and particularly Western Washington has a sizable population of Southerners who emigrated there for a variety of reasons." It lists the reasons and it also says, "they brought their music with them." This is surely apparent in this album. It is, I would say, one of the better anthologies of mountain music around. (Lou Curtiss, Khrome Kazoo)

*****

This album is a collection of old-time music from western Washington State. The musicians are originally from the South and most of the cuts reflect the styles and flavor of the 20's, 30's or earlier. The recordings were made in the 60's mostly at two concerts sponsored by the Seattle Folklore Society and the quality of the recordings are good.

Ex-Kentuckian, Paul Wiley, uses some unfamiliar banjo tunings and his versions of Pretty Polly and Some Forty Years Ago are of special interest. I especially enjoyed Ellis Cowin, a fiddler originally from Missouri, who plays Chicken Reel and Old Coon Dog on the album. The music here covers a broad range of southern styles and could provide a limited source of material for old-time musicians or even some Bluegrass players. (The Flatlands Occasional)

*****

It is not surprising to find the music of the South in the Northwest, but not enough of it has been recorded. Comin' Round the Mountain offers music from performers who came west in periods ranging from 1916 to 1958 and now live in western Washington. A number of them - the Mills Family, Fred McFalls and Ben Bryson, and Bill Pruitt - migrated from the area of Silva and Waynesville, North Carolina. The Mills group do searing country gospel, "I'll Live in Glory" and "Drunken Driver." McFalls and Bryson have been professional hillbillies since 1940, but are here doing "Where Did You Get Those Pretty Little Shoes" and others in the mandolin-guitar duet style of the thirties. Other and older North Carolina musicians are Roy Caudill and Henry Vanoy, performing instrumentals and frolic songs. Ex-Kentuckian Paul Wiley preserves older-style banjo tunes and songs. In his version of "Pretty Polly" the ship carrying the escaping murderer strikes an iceberg and sinks. Finally, another performer, fiddler Ellis Cowan, emigrated from Missouri. (Journal of American Folklore)

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