Friday, January 7, 2011

Rebel Records to Digitally Reissue LPs by The Coon Creek Girls and Kenny Baker & Joe Greene

In the fourth installment of the campaign by Rebel Records to make classic releases available for download,  two stellar albums from Rebel’s sister label, County Records, will be available for purchase through all major digital retailers beginning on January 18th.

High Country by Kenny Baker & Joe Greene, which was originally released in 1968,  features Mr. Baker, who was a Blue Grass Boy with Bill Monroe from 1956 to 1958 and then again from 1961 to 1963, but had returned to his original profession of coal mining by the time he was invited to perform at a bluegrass festival in Fincastle, VA in fall of 1966. 

It was there that County Records president Dave Freeman witnessed Baker in an informal jam session with the then, relatively unknown young fiddler, Joe Greene.  He was so impressed with their twin fiddling that he signed them in what would be the first of several albums Baker would record for Rebel and County Records.

High Country showcases Baker and Greene at the pinnacle of the twin fiddling tradition, with the former on melody line and the latter carrying the harmony parts. Since its initial release the title track has gained widespread recognition and become a twin fiddling standard.

Female country singers are now commonplace but this was not the case in the late 20s and 30s when the music of the rural south was first becoming a business.  Even rarer then were all-girl string bands, yet the few that did exist were so good that one wonders why more such bands weren’t formed.  One of the best was The Coon Creek Girls, led by Kentucky-born singer, fiddler, and banjo player Lily May Ledford.

The group played on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance radio program, albeit with a few personnel changes, from its beginning in Cincinnati in 1937 until 1957.  The band members had since gone on to raise families and work other jobs, but reunited on several occasions in the 1960s during the folk revival.  Lily May, Rosie, & Susie was recorded during this era and derives its title from the recording’s lineup: Lily May Ledford accompanied by her sisters Rosie and Susie.

Tracks such as “Banjo Picking Girl” feature excellent full string band arrangements and harmony vocals, but perhaps most memorable are numbers such as “Red Rocking Chair,” “East Virginia Blues,” and “Pretty Polly”, where Lily May appears alone singing and accompanying herself on banjo.

Lily May, Rosie, & Susie marks the first time a full length Coon Creek Girls album has been made available for digital download, an event not to be underestimated given the group’s profound influence on later string bands and country singers.

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