Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Hills And Hollows Of “Home”- “The Hills Of Home: 25 Years Of Folk Music On Rounder Records”- A CD Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Hazel Dickens performing her classic hills and hollows mountain classic, The Hills Of Home.

The Hills Of Home: 25 Years Of Folk Music On Rounder Records, two CD set, various artists, Rounder Records, 1995

Rumor, family rumor anyway, has it that I was in the womb when my parents went back down south to my father’s birthplace in Kentucky, Hazard, Kentucky to be exact, a place storied in song and hard class struggle. I “rebelled” against listening to that old-time nasal drear mountain music that my father used to play back in childhood days, much preferring first be-bop, doo wop, Elvis, Jerry Lee and Chuck rock, then the blues, urban and country, and then urban-based folk music. A few years back, maybe more now, I heard some old-time sounds on the radio coming from Hazel Dickens, probably Working Girl Blues or the title cut from this CD, The Hills Of Home. And, strangely, I was “home.” Home down in the wind-swept ragged old hollows (yes, I know the correct word is hollas but what can you do), the coal-dusted hills, and the tar paper shacks that my forbears called their place in the sun.

So naturally, as is my wont when I am on to something seriously, I had to run out and buy some mountain music. And having been familiar, very familiar, with the efforts of the people at local Rounder Records to do in modern times what Charles Seeger and John and Alan Lomax did in their times-preserve the basic American songbook- I picked up this 25th anniversary compilation. Partially because it had The Hill of Home on it but also to give a good cross-section of what this “down home” music looked like to a novice, eager or not. And that is good place to end. Except to note several very good stick outs in this two CD set.

They include: Norman Blake’s Church Street Blues; Rory Block’s Joliet Bound; Mississippi John Hurts’ Worried Blues; Etta Baker’s One Dime Blues; the above-mentioned The Hill of Home by Hazel Dickens; Woodstock Mountain Revue’s Killing The Blues; and Laurie Lewis’ Who Will Watch The Home Place. Okay.

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