Classic music, but not the classic line-up
BAY | Maryland | 06/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is typically great music from the Country Gentlemen, recorded at a series of live dates in 1964 but not released until 1973. However, the liner notes erroneously refer to it as being from the "classic" Gents line-up of Charlie Waller, John Duffey, Eddie Adcock, and Tom Gray, when in fact it was Ed Ferris, not Tom, on bass."
Live mid-60s bluegrass had propulsive rhythm, lively mandoli
J. Ross | Roseburg, OR USA | 08/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Playing Time - 46:29 -- One thing I love about Smithsonian Folkways albums is their copious educational liner notes. This Country Gentlemen album, for example, includes a 28-page booklet that is well worth the price alone. The 17-page essay and 6-page song notes were written by Jon Hartley Fox. The material is drawn from live recordings of the Country Gentlemen in the 1960s, during their first decade in existence. At the time, their repertoire included traditional numbers along with songs from the likes of Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Murphy, Scott Wiseman, Hank Williams, Alfred Beddoe, Merle Travis, Carter Stanley and Alton Delmore. Recorded at their regular venues like the Admiral Grill in Baileys Crossroads, Va., the liner notes say that the quartet included what is considered as the "classic" Country Gentlemen (Charlie Waller, John Duffey, Eddie Adcock, Tom Gray). However, the original Folkways LP release (FTS-31031) credits Ed Ferris as the bass player.
Each song is given a short spoken introduction. From A. E. Beddoe's 1953 folk opera "Go Lightly, Stranger," for example is the song "Copper Kettle" about moonshining. The song had been recorded as the band's first single for Starday, and they had hoped that it would land them a major label recording contract. Written by Scotty Wiseman, "Brown Mountain Light" was a hit for both The Country Gents and the Kingston Trio in the early 1960s. At the end of the song, Waller introduces the band "better known as The Beatles of the Stone Age." One of my favorite songs is one I learned from Bill Clifton, the sentimental "Mary Dear" about a soldier returning from war only to find his loved one gone. "Dark as a Dungeon" is another favorite still played widely by bluegrass bands today.
The Country Gentlemen had a propulsive rhythmic sense, lively mandolin breaks, feisty banjo-picking, soaring vocals, and snappy showmanship. Instrumentals played in the set of music include "Billy in the Lowground," "Daybreak in Dixie" and "Azzuro Campana (Blue Bell)." Waller even takes a spirited guitar break in the former. Their humor in live performance is best illustrated in "Tom Dooley #2" with stage banter about the single-note breaks and Yankee word pronunciation. The best thing about older resissued live bluegrass music is that captures seminal moments in the history of the genre. While they had a vision to infuse their music with contemporary nuances, The Country Gentlemen also displayed a great deal of respect for tradition. "Going Back to the Blue Ridge Mountains" is a very savory set that was ripe for reissuance on compact disc. The audience chanting "more, more, more" after "Muleskinner Blues" ends the set tells the story. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)