Way Back Music

Lexington KY, 1988:

One morning during my sophomore year in college, I woke up with the type of primal, superlative hangover one hopes to experience no more than five times in one life. I currently have no more than one of these left on my scorecard. I'm trying to avoid it. Unable to sleep & unable to move from my bed, the only entertainment within reach was a clock radio. All the stations were full of nothing but the most mundane BS. Desperately scanning the dial in search of anything good, I finally turned all the way to the left, below NPR. When I reached 88.1 FM I found something I desperately needed.

It was a sonic revelati
on. Banjo, Mandolin, Fiddle & deliciously twangy high harmony singing. I was instantly transported back in time into a culture I'd been doing my best to deny. Regional Fiddle Contests attended with my parents. AM Gospel radio in my Mamaw's kitchen. It all came flooding back into my soul.

After an hour or so I was able to make it across the room to the stereo. I turned on the big speakers to the same station, WRFL (which must have been brand new at the time) & crawled back to bed again. The show was called Blue Yodel #9, hosted by Brother Ephraim McDowell. That morning a DJ saved my life.

Since then I've always kept at least a small part of my wide ranging ear tuned to Bluegrass & Folk music. One of my all-time favorite records
is "They Can't Put It Back" by Rich Kirby & Michael Kline, on the June Appal (Appalshop) label from Whitesburg, KY. Anytime I choose to listen to this record, I can easily return to a wonderful, childlike state of mind.

I once used a tune from it in a showstopping class presentation on Schenkerian Analysis. Who woulda thunk?

Kudos to my parents for owning this album in the first place. The last time I listened to it all the way through was via iPod on a train in the South of France. It doesn't matter where or when I hear it. It's always great.

The internet evangelist in me is saddened to report that I can't find the stunning original cover photos by Doug Yarrow anywhere on the web. The image I've used here is from a reprint. It appears that the album can now be purchased as a digital download. I'll remain satisfied with the LP copy I obtained from the Lexington Public Library in their great vinyl sell-off of the mid-90's.

Turn the Radio On!

(please note: I'll pretend to be a good congressman here, & will revise & extend my remarks later.)


Anonymous said...

Don't forget Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe. It is important for everyone to keep in touch with his/her heritage. Somehow, I think we all have a time of denial before rediscovering what was always good. Jane T.

Cybil said...

Thanks for writing this.

Anonymous said...

Yours truly rejoices to hear that even in Circa 2010 there is more than one person who still digs good music !

How I pine to have a Weavers and/or a New Christy Minstels album on vinyl ---NOT CD , but vinyl for the sound quality on vinyl is vastly better .

Was hoping that the folk revival started in part by Devendra Banhardt and Joanna Newsome would lead to a large scale folk resurgence . Unfortunately, the lyrics of Joanna Newsome are often riddled with goofy postmodernist thinking , but she is notwithstanding an amazing harpist .

One good turn with the newer folk revival is that it has led to people rediscovering the amazing music of Vashti Bunyan !

Sincerely ,

Jason Leary