This two-CD collection of performances from the Home Craft Days Festival held at Mountain Empire Community College in Big Stone Gap, Va., is a good cross section of talent from the southwestern corner of Virginia, southeastern Kentucky, western North Carolina, and northeastern Tennessee. This project is taken from performances recorded live at the event. The region is rich in bluegrass, old-time, and gospel music. Much of what is presented here is true folk music. The music has a down-home quality that is as endearing as it is, at times, imperfect. There are stellar performances by former members of the Red Clay Ramblers with Joe Newberry, the Wolfe Brothers, the Whitetop Mountain Band, Wayne Henderson, and Robin & Linda Williams.
Altogether, there are 47 tracks reflecting much of the region’s music in a wide variety of styles. There are original songs such as Charlie Engle’s “Wait For The Rails To Hum,” the protest song “They Can’t Put It Back,” sung by Erie “Jack” Wright, to string band numbers by the Reed Island Rounders and the Boozy Creek String Band. Ada and Jimmy McCowan are represented by a fine rendition of a traditional number, “Come Along Little Buddy.” Carver, Hicks, Watson, and Newberry provide a highlight with the late Craig Johnson’s “Damned Old Piney Mountain.” There is gospel music from the Sherman Family Band, Generation Gap, the Lee Smith Singers, and Jim and Alberta Stanley. The whole project begins with a fine performance of “Red Rocking Chair” from Big Medicine of Raleigh, N.C.
If your tastes run toward down-home music performed honestly in a heartfelt manner, there is plenty here to like. This well-recorded project with extensive liner notes goes a long way to documenting and making available some of the rich traditional music that inhabits this corner of the world. (Mountain Empire Comm. Coll., 3441 Mountain Empire Rd., Big Stone Gap, VA 24219, www.mecc.edu.) RCB