Hobart Smith: Blue Ridge Legacy

(
Rounder Records
)

Recorded 1942–1963 by Alan Lomax, Moses Asch, Fleming Brown, Paul Clayton, Diane Hamilton, and Peter Siegel
Notes by John Cohen and Stephen Wade

Renaissance mountain man Hobart Smith (1897–1965) was born in rural Saltville, Virginia in 1897. Although he spent some years as a farmer, a house-painter, and a butcher, by 1946 he would tell Alan Lomax that (unlike many folk artists) he “practically made a living making music,” playing at land auctions, religious events, and square dances. On the minstrel-show circuit in the mid-teens and collaborating with Clarence “Tom” Ashley in the 1920s, this Appalachian virtuoso was many things —  a profoundly moving vocalist, a guitarist, fiddler, banjo, harmonica and piano player; his performance style synthesizing both black and white Southern sources.  When he recorded for Alan Lomax first in 1946 and then again in 1959, he exhibited his full repertoire — reflected in this collection — of ballads, blues, breakdowns, fiddle tunes, his own compositions, and a piano version of “Dixie” — the legacy of a musical giant whose influence on old-time music and the folk revival remains uncharted. Banjo tablature by Steven Wade is provided for two of Smith’s most memorable pieces, “Last Chance” and “The Cuckoo Bird.”

Hobart Smith: Blue Ridge Legacy is as fine an album of old-timey music as we could ever expect.” —Musical Traditions

“If you are a fan of traditional, Appalachian or old-timey music and don’t already own this CD, what are you waiting for? If this music is alien to you, run out and get this disc anyway, and prepare for the best education in this musical style you might wish for.” —Rambles