Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Emmylou Harris & Mary Black: Green Rolling Hills

If you count the three months I lived in Chester, WV in 1975 and the four months I lived near Logan, WV in 1976, I have now been in the Mountain State of West Virginia for a total of 30 years. It is hard to believe that I’ve been here that long, but it is equally as difficult to believe that I have lived anywhere else.

When I think of my adopted home, one of the songs that comes to mind was recorded by Emmylou Harris and Fayssoux Starling (now McLean) on Emmylou’s 1978 album “Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town.” This was the second of the four or five Emmylou albums that I own and “Green Rolling Hills (of West Virginia)” was one of my favorite tunes. Today’s Traditional Tuesday feature is a more recent recording with Mary Black from the “Transatlantic Sessions, Volume I.”

Written by the late U. Utah Phillips whose normal fare was labor protest songs. Besides Harris and Black, this particular recording features the dueling fiddles of Aly Bain and Jay Unger. Bain was a founding member of The Boys of the Lough and Ungar who got his start with David Bromberg but is probably best known for his composition and recording “Ashokan Farewell” which was used as a theme for Ken Burns’ PBS documentary on the Civil War. Ungar’s wife, Molly Mason, is playing bass on this cut.

American bluegrass musician Russ Barenberg is the feature mandolin picker on this cut. He is often sought out as a session musician by those much more famous than he. Phil Cunningham of Silly Wizard is playing the low D pennywhistle. I love the sound of these – but haven’t bit the bullet to buy one as they are a little expensive. Mary Black hails from Ireland in this confluence of artists from Scotland, Ireland, and America.

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