Tim O’Brien, Dirk Powell, John Hermann
Songs From The Mountain (Inspired by the Charles Frazier novel ‘Cold Mountain’)
Howdy Skies Records/DNA
Dirk Powell first approached Tim O’Brien with the idea of doing this recording at the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis last winter. O’Brien had himself been dreaming of putting together a companion to the epic novel Cold Mountain for quite some time. They agreed to join forces on it, and after drafting banjoist John Hermann, recording was started in a Nashville home studio within six weeks of their meeting.
Prior to meeting with O’Brien, Hermann had already discussed the idea with several record labels, but no one seemed interested. Unable to find a home for their project, they had to create and fund their own label. Thus was born Howdy Skies Records.
The artists next had to clear the rights to associate the CD with the novel. This itself turned out to be no mean feat. Charles Frazier, already a fan of O’Brien, loved the music and the idea, and was very enthusiastic about the project. Unfortunately, neither he nor the current publisher could authorize the musicians to associate their work with the novel, since the rights to the novel had already been sold to MGM-UA for an upcoming major motion picture. Furthermore, the novel was coming out in paperback, and any cross-promotions would have to be cleared through yet another publisher, Vintage Books. After months of negotiation, an agreement was finally negotiated. According to the terms agreed on with MGM-UA, the CD can only be sold packaged with the paperback version of Cold Mountain . Buy the CD, and you get a free copy of the book.
The Civil War-era North Carolina-based novel is packed full of references to old Appalachian dance tunes and ballads. The songs on this CD are taken directly from references in the book. Lyrics to these old-time songs pepper the text. The musicians were able to recognize the lyrics and associate them with the old traditional songs. “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” “Cluck Old Hen,” “Wayfarin’ Stranger,” and “Angel Band” are just a few of the many old traditional songs included here. The musicians assembled here represent some of the finest in their fields. Tim O’Brien and Dirk Powell both came out of the Appalachian region, and have been familiar with these songs for most of their lives. O’Brien is a very talented multi-instrumentalist who has been nominated for two Grammies, and is the only artist to ever have three consecutive #1 albums on the Americana chart. Powell is one of the finest traditional musicians in America. He is also currently a member of the Cajun group Balfa Toujours. Herrmann is a long-time student of, and performer of traditional Appalachian music. He spent a lot of time touring the Orient and living in monasteries in India, Nepal, China, and Japan. In Japan, he is known as ‘The father of old-time music’. He is also one of the premier players of old-time clawhammer banjo.
This CD is a must-have for anyone who wants to get the full impact of the book, or a great starting place for anyone who has any interest whatsoever in traditional Appalachian music. This is probably the best and most comprehensive primer ever made of this style of music, and an excellent starting point for anyone interested in tracing the history of American Folk music forward.