Hi, there... This page is part of the Slipcue guide to old-timey musicians, both old and new. This old-timey guide is part of a much larger Hick Music website. This "guide" is not meant to be comprehensive or authoritative, just a quick look at a few records I've heard recently, as well as some old favorites. Comments, corrections and/or recommendations are are always welcome!
This page covers the letter "R"
Red Clay Ramblers "Twisted Laurel" (Flying Fish, 1976)
The ever-versatile Red Clay Ramblers don't always fit perfectly into the "bluegrass" or "folk" boxes, what with with that confounded piano and the occasional kazoo; they don't stick strictly to the banjo-fiddle-mandolin template of Bill Monroe and his acolytes, but their mastery of Antebellum and Gilded Age pop places them squarely in the same sentimentalist traditions as the truegrass forefathers. The Ramblers reach back far into the American pop and folk legacies, drawing on sources that date back well before the 20th Century. Twisted Laurel ably showcases their diverse strengths: they pick and plunk along with the best of them, veer into vaudevillian vocal ditties, traditional tunes with a Stephen Foster lilt, as well as goofy original novelty tunes like "The Ace," which have a distinct air of Cheap Suit Seranaders zaniness. And, of course, a Carter Family tune or two, along with the Jimmie Rodgers classic, "Mississippi Delta Blues," which is completely in line with their old-timely leanings. Fun stuff, though certainly not your standard-issue stringband material.
Red Clay Ramblers "Merchants Lunch" (Flying Fish, 1977)
The Ramblers get more overtly stoner-y and goofy on this album, balancing jug band blues with old-timey breakdowns such as "Forked Deer" and Uncle Dave Macon's "Rabbit In The Peach Patch" with nutty novelty tunes like the title track. Another winner, if you ask me, although I can see why it would get on some folk's nerves.
Red Clay Ramblers "Meeting In The Air" (Flying Fish, 1980)
The Ramblers have put a lot of great records out, modernizing the old stringband sound in surprising and playful ways. This disc -- a beautiful tribute to the Carter Family -- is probably my favorite of all their albums, and one which hews most closely to the original, traditional feel of the music. The Ramblers capture perfectly the heartfelt sentimentality of the old Carter Family albums, and if anything, on the softer love songs such as "One Little Word" and "Are You Tired of Me My Darling?" they are able bring a greater resonance to the material than the ever-craggy Carters did in the original versions. Gentle and sublime.
The Red Fox Chasers "Classic Old Time Music From North Carolina" (BACM, 2005)
The Red Fox Chasers "I'm Going Down To North Carolina -- The Complete Recordings Of The Red Fox Chasers: 1928-1931" (Tompkins Square, 2009)
The Rice Brothers Gang "King Cotton Stomp" (BACM, 2005)
Leslie Riddle "Step By Step" (Rounder, 1993)
Speaking of the Carter Family, here is a lovely disc that a pal of theirs, guitarist/folklorist Lesley Riddle, made during the waning days of the '60s folk revival. Riddle was a local African-American performer who shared (and sought out) many songs for A.P. Carter to add to the group's early repertoire -- in fact, you could almost say he was to the Carter Family what George Martin was to the Beatles, acting as a musical mentor to both A.P. and Sara Carter. This disc shows that Riddle shared their gift for delicate lyrical expression, and emotional resonance. This disc is getting harder to find, but is well worth the search.
Jean Ritchie/Various Artists "Field Trip" (Greenhays, 1954)
A fascinating album in which one of America's supreme folkloric artists drew close the connections between American old-time music and its British and Celtic roots. Travelling through England, Ireland and Scotland on a Fulbright scholarship, Ritchie collected many wonderful performances from the locals, of well-known songs such as "Pretty Polly," "The Cuckoo's Nest" and "Barbara Allen," then contrasted the Old World versions to the ones she learned as a child in Appalachia. This is a great record, which still holds its charm, all these decades later. Recommended!
Roane County Ramblers "Complete Recordings: 1928-1929" (County, 2004)
In the 1920s, during the early, hazy days of the country music business, scrappy stringbands like Roane County, Tennessee's Roane County Ramblers dotted the landscape, playing a driving style of acoustic music that was the transition between the old-timey music of the Antebellum South and the more modern "bluegrass" style that would arise over a decade later. The Ramblers were one of the most musically accomplished of these groups, featuring the sleek, nuanced fiddling work of Jimmy McCarroll, a mine worker and mill worker who wrote several well-known breakdowns, notably "Hometown Blues," with a tune that was covered by numerous other artists and morphed over the years into Bill Monroe's "Heavy Traffic Ahead." While just writing the song was enough to put him on the map, his performance style was also pretty striking -- bluegrass fans and fiddling enthusiasts in particular will enjoy this collection for its richness and textural depth, as well as for the phenomenally clean sound quality... Kudos to the County label for another fine reissue!
Carson Robison "Home, Sweet Home On The Prairie: 25 Cowboy Classics" (ASV, 1996)
Carson Robison "Blue River Train & Other Cowboy And Country Songs" (Jasmine, 2007)
Carson Robison "Goin Back To Texas" (BACM, 2005)
Carson Robison "Old Kentucky Cabin" (BACM, 2005)
Carson Robison "Transatlantic Traveller" (BACM, 2005)
Carson Robison "The Later Years" (BACM, 2005)
Hick Music Index