OLA BELLE REED
AND SOUTHERN MOUNTAIN MUSIC ON THE MASON-DIXON LINE
Dust-To-Digital (DTD-40)A hardback 256 page book with 2CDs of newly re-mastered recordings of the music of Ola Belle Reed and musical descendants
A superlative new release by Dust-To-Digital, in association with the Maryland State Arts Council and Indiana University, that essentially draws together two separate field trips made some forty years apart.
The academic interest of some of the participants in the field work was to reflect the extent to which migration from the Appalachian mountains within the southern states of America (caused by the hardships of the Great Depression of the 1930s) had impacted upon the places they settled to find work and stability - in this case, the more northerly states at the eastern end of the Mason-Dixon Line, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Arising out of this initiative, folklorist Henry Glassie set out on a field trip in 1966 to visit Oxford, Pennsylvania to meet Ola Belle Reed, herself one of those who migrated from the Appalachian mountains years before establishing a reputation as a trail blazing and influential American bluegrass and folk singer, songwriter and banjo player. Over the next couple of years, Glassie recorded Ola Belle and her wide repertoire of folk ballads, minstrel songs, country standards and original songs. At the same time he met and recorded other musicians in the coterie of family and friends that operated around her.
Some four decades later, another folklorist, Clifford Murphy came across the tapes that Glassie had made but never released. Amazed at their quality, he set about arranging for their release while at the same time setting out himself on a field trip of his own to discover if the musical traditions laid down by Ola Belle and associates still existed in the towns of Pennsylvania Maryland and Delaware. Thankfully, not only did they still exist but were actively thriving, so he set about recording as much as he could in the hope that they would form an interesting and worthwhile compendium of the musical legacy of Ola Belle Reed.
Thankfully, the results of this work have not only been realised in this tremendous production but surely must now significantly exceed any hopes or aspirations Clifford Murphy had for his plans when he hatched them.
On the first CD, we get 24 tracks from Glassie’s ‘lost’ recordings of Ola Belle Reed, either solo or accompanied by other musicians in her circle, including Alex Campbell, John Miller and Burl Kilby The second CD includes 34 recordings made more recently by Murphy and feature the songs learnt from Ola Belle by her descendants (family or just musical), including Hugh Campbell, Dave Reed, the DeBusk-Weaver Family, Zane Campbell, Danny Paisley and more (including a still sprightly Burl Kilby).
Musically, each CD is individually stunning and together a fitting tribute in themselves to the musical legacy left by Ola Belle Reed. But, this being Dust-To-Digital, there is always more - in this case a beaut of a 256 page hardback book, telling the story of both field trips, the life and career of Ola Belle, notes and information on all musical participants and the origins of each song. And the photographs are pretty special too!
Another life-enhancing set from Dust-To-Digital to cherish. And yet another example of their important role in restoring and returning to us such a rich and vital musical heritage.
Review Date: August 2015