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DOLLY PARTON, NORMAN BLAKE AMONG THE ARTISTS ON ANTHOLOGY OF TRADITIONAL AMERICAN MUSIC
FROM THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, 'ON TOP OF OLD SMOKY: NEW OLD-TIME SMOKY MOUNTAIN MUSIC'
In the image of the fiery phoenix’s rebirth, Great Smoky Mountains Association is set to launch its third album of traditional American music featuring artists of today recreating songs performed by Smoky Mountain residents at the time of the development of a national park. The North Carolina launch event is set for Saturday, Aug. 20, at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee.
“On Top of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music,” one of several National Park Service Centennial-recognition projects produced by GSMA this year, features new recordings of traditional songs ballads, and tunes by leading American roots music luminaries, including Dolly Parton, Norman Blake, Bryan Sutton, Alice Gerrard, Tony Trischka, Stephen Wade, Sheila Kay Adams, Martin Simpson, Dom Flemons, Jody Stecher, Kate Brislin, Courtney Hartman, and David Holt.
Haywood County’s French Kirkpatrick and Friends, whose support during GSMA’s production of “Carroll Best and the White Oak String Band” in 2014 proved to be invaluable, are scheduled to open the event at 3 p.m. Additional performers set to appear during the Aug. 20 launch party include Corbin Hayslett, Trevor McKenzie, and Bill and the Belles. Ted Olson, album co-producer and professor of Appalachian Studies at ETSU, will serve as emcee during the event.
“This new album offers 23 never-before-released performances of the classic American folk music repertoire,” said Ted Olson, professor of Appalachian Studies and Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music Studies at East Tennessee State University and one of the album’s producers. “These remarkable performances reinterpret field recordings collected in the Smokies by folklorist Joseph S. Hall, who documented the musical culture of Smokies residents as they were leaving their homes and farms during the park’s development.”
Hall, a trained linguist from Southern California and named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in GSMNP History, was commissioned by the National Park Service to document the speech of the people being displaced by the park’s creation. Begun in 1937, his work continued and his appreciation for the people of east Tennessee and western North Carolina grew into a four-decades-long mission to dispel the negative stereotypes of the region’s people. Hall’s recordings went unheard until 2010, when GSMA released Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music, a work that would go on to be nominated for the Best Historical Album Grammy award.
“Hall’s recordings from the Smokies have subsequently inspired many of today’s roots musicians by providing authentic examples of folk music from previously unknown but talented regional musicians,” said Olson. “The same qualities showcased on Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music can be heard throughout On Top of Old Smoky, as these new performances by some of America’s most respected roots musicians are in equal parts resonant, raw and real.”
The new CD includes “Come, All You Young Ladies” performed by Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin; “Man of Constant Sorrow” by John Lilly; “Ground Hog” by Alice Gerrard; “John Hardy” by Martin Simpson with Dom Flemons; “Mole in the Ground” by Sheila Kay Adams; “I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home” by Bryan Sutton; “The Dying Cowboy” by Norman and Nancy Blake with the Rising Fawn String Ensemble; “Conversation With Death” by The Brother Boys; and “Little Rosewood Casket” by Dolly Parton.
According to Steve Kemp, GSMA’s interpretive products ad services director, On Top of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music completes the circle, honoring Hall’s field recordings and the people who made those recordings in the 1930s and ’50s.
“By presenting contemporary performances of gems from the Smokies’ regional repertoire by many of America’s finest roots musicians, GSMA is pleased to have worked with the best in the business to once again give new life to these performances,” Kemp said.
“Whether established or emerging artists, the musicians on this album respect older performing styles and older repertoire and are culture-bearers, much like the musicians that Hall recorded way back when,” said Olson.
The public is invited free of charge to this 3 p.m. launch event, which will immediately follow OVC’s 1-3 p.m. Back Porch Old-Time Music Jam, during which area musicians are invited to bring acoustic instrument and join in. A second launch event is being scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10, on park headquarters lawn near Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has supported the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation and research. A non-profit organization, GSMA has provided more than $34 million to the park during its 60-year history.
For more information, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org. CDs are available at all eight official national park visitor center locations, as well as GSMA’s webstore. All proceeds from CD sales support Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Album pays tribute to the more than 4,000 people who had to give up their ancestral homes to create Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
National Park Service Centennial Project provides side-by-side comparison of old-time mountain musicians from 80 years ago and today
GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Joseph S. Hall, a linguistics graduate student at Columbia University, took a job in the Smoky Mountains in 1937 to help pay his tuition. The federal government hired him to document the speech of the people who were being asked to leave their homes to make way for the development of a brand new national park. Two years later he returned to the Smokies, this time on a mission to record the area's musical traditions, which would be no easy task, as it required carrying bulky recording equipment over unimproved mountain roads. (If the 2000 movie "Songcatcher" comes to mind, you're on the right track. Instead of taking place at the turn of the 20th century, picture Western North Carolina and East Tennessee 30 years later, this time deep in the Great Depression.)
Hall's work -- including years of written and sound field recordings -- eventually found their way to three separate archives, where they remained untouched and unheard until the early 2000s, when a team of scholars uncovered them, dusted them off and finally worked with nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association to produce "Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music." The 2010 CD features 34 recordings from Hall's second visit to the Smokies, which proceed by just a few months President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Sept. 2, 1940, dedication speech at Newfound Gap.
That first album was honored with a Grammy Award nomination for Best Historical Album and was followed by GSMA's "Carroll Best and the White Oak String Band," which featured more Hall recordings, these from two additional visits to the Smokies in 1956 and 1959, when he specifically sought to capture the emerging bluegrass sound as performed by a group of musicians from Haywood County, North Carolina.
As a tribute to Hall's years of dedication to what started essentially as a summer job and in recognition of the National Park Service Centennial, GSMA now brings forth its third album inspired by the mountain people whose voices Hall worked so hard to save for all times. Though he went on to become a college professor in California, Hall retained lifelong friendships with many of those he met at the exact moment their lives were being turned upside down by the knowledge that they have to leave behind the only homes they'd ever known.
Some of today's most recognizable performers of old-time music volunteered their time and talent to make "On Top of Old Smoky" a reality. Most of the songs listed on the download below were captured by amateurs in less than state-of-the-art conditions nearly 80 years ago; the performances included on the new CD, in contrast, were recorded by some of today's best-known old-time and bluegrass musicians in the best-possible conditions to mirror and honor the originals.
"All of the musicians on this (new) album respect older performing styles and older repertoire; and, whether established or emerging artists, all are culture-bearers—much like the musicians that Hall recorded way back when," said East Tennessee State University music professor and CD co-producer Ted Olson.
While all are worthy of careful comparison, we draw your attention to "Mule Skinner Blues" and "Lost Indian." Here's how Olson describes the significance of their comparisons:
“In 1939 Hall recorded an unnamed Civilian Conservation Corps group singing Jimmie Rodgers' ‘Mule Skinner Blues’ in a manner that foretold the bluegrass sound the year before ‘the Father of Bluegrass’ Bill Monroe introduced his new bluegrass sound by covering that same Rodgers song with the same sense of excitement and a similarly spritely tempo; it was as if those amateur CCC musicians were foreshadowing the soon-to-be-popular bluegrass sound before the man who gets most of the credit for that sound. So Hall's recordings document old-time music at the precise moment it was being transformed by various people (not just Monroe, as bluegrass fans have maintained) into bluegrass.
"The second historically significant recording was Hall's recording of Carroll Best and the White Oak String Band in 1956 performing ‘Lost Indian,’ which brilliantly documented Carroll Best's playing in the melodic three-finger banjo well before Bobby Thompson's or Bill Keith's first documented performances in that soon-to-be-mainstream bluegrass banjo style. Carroll Best's role as a groundbreaking banjo player had been overlooked for decades by bluegrass music historians, but the GSMA's release of the Hall recordings of Best and the WOSB from the 1950s provided definitive evidence of Best's central contributions to bluegrass and roots music generally."
Sales of “On Top of Old Smoky” not only support GSMA’s mission as a National Park Service partner, they directly support the park management outcomes for today's visitors and for those who will find this national park during the next 100 years.