CD Review: THE STAGE HOGS – A Tribute To The Hill Billies

A Tribute To The Hill Billies
Black-Eyed Susie – Medley of Soldiers Joy,
Pretty Saro, Turkey Buzzard – Buck Eyed Rabbit – Blue Ridge Mountain
Blues – Cacklin’ Hen – Fisher’s Hornpipe – Wild Hoss – Cripple Creek –
East Tennessee Blues – Cluck Old Hen – Flop Eared Mule – Going Down The
Road – Johnson Boys – Old Joe Clark – Ragtime Annie – Sally Ann – Sally
Gooden – Silly Bill – Sourwood Mountain – Texas Gals – Walking In The
Parlor – Don’t Get Trouble In Your Mind
This is definitely a ‘tribute’ album, and it’s also a very
welcome recording to those of us who mourn the slowly disappearing music
of the old-time folks, especially those in the Appalachian Mountain
area.  I’ve played backing rhythm guitar behind many of our old-time
fiddlers here in the upper Midwest, especially Iowa, South Dakota, and
Minnesota, and I am so relieved to see the same songs our old time
fiddlers played showing up on this incredibly wonderful CD from North
Carolina.  One of the first old-time players that made a name for
himself was Uncle Dave Macon on the Grand Ole Opry, but he was only
carrying on what the Stage Hogs are doing today, keeping the song melody
lines as accurate as possible, the ‘dance’ style rhythm pattern
suitable to clog dancing as well as some of that old-time hillbilly
dancing, and making sure every musician gets a spot to show off.  What
an extremely great pleasure it is for me to listen to these guys play
music they love.  I’m not going to try to pin-point what each one does
because they trade off all the time, but they are known as the ‘Stage
Hogs’ and that consists of Eddie Bond, Kirk Sutphin, Snake Smith, Kevin
Fore, and Tom Mylet.  ALL of their instrumental embellishments are
exactly as they should be, and we get a good chance to hear vocal
abilities for instance, when Eddie Bond takes the lead vocal on “Blue
Ridge Mountain Blues,” and again on “Going Down This Road.”  I believe
if you could shut your eyes and move yourself through time and space,
you would find yourself right there beside the original Hill Billies in
Galax, Virginia, the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and home of
some of America’s grandest old-time music, especially played for you by
the Stage Hogs.  A music meant to have fun with, a music from the heart,
a music from the rural folks, a music that is without a doubt
American.  It is so sad to see what has become of country music today. 
Oh yes, of course, there are country charts and country stars and
country songwriters and country radio stations, the only problem with
that is, most of them are not ‘country.’  This music so generously
performed by the Stage Hogs, is the very same music the Hill Billies
would have been incredibly discriminated against by ASCAP because in
ASCAP’s words, ‘this music is not fit for human beings to listen to,”
and therefore would not license it for radio air play.  Can you imagine
the huge number of artists that were denied the opportunity to not only
share their music, but to deny them any attempt at giving self-employed
musicians the opportunity to work.  Even the great Woody Guthrie song
‘Going Down This Road’ is beautifully interpreted in this early
hillbilly style. ‘Ragtime Annie’ is cleverly done.  Here in the upper
Midwest that same song had a little more ‘western’ swing sound that
perhaps smoothed it some, but the same song could be played by as many
as 35 or 40 fiddlers at the same time, in the early years, especially in
South Dakota.  Myself being a guitar player picking behind a really
good old-time hillbilly fiddler was an incredible experience to say the
least. In the Stage Hogs song “Texas Gals” you can hear a little of that
western swing style with the back stroke being a little longer than the
usual short stroke keeping the beat.  What a terrific CD, I shall
immediately forward this one to the Rural Roots Music Commission while I
still have time for this year’s honors, who I know are looking for
someone to take their “Old Time Instrumental CD of the Year” award. 
Probably won’t happen, it’s a long road to travel from North Carolina to
Iowa to pick up an honor in this style of music.  Still we never know,
and we’ve been trying for 42 years to keep this music alive, so we wish
all of us good luck.
RECORD REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART, Pres., NTCMA – National Traditional Country Music Assn.  – for Country Music News International

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