Rounder Records Corp.
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA. 02140
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Judith Lindenau
Ozark Frontier is the seventh volume in a 13-volume series of original recordings of the rural South, collected by Alan Lomax. To collect this volume, Lomax journeyed to Arkansas in the fall of 1959, and worked within a 50-mile radius of Mountain View, recording 6 folk artists in a period of 7 days.
In his writings on this area, Lomax characterizes the sociology of the inhabitants as a collection of refugees from the scarce game and abundant preachers of the East. These backwoods people, Lomax says, chose to live a more relaxed and easy life in this last patch of real woodland.
They came from a variety of origins and backgrounds and brought a rich tapestry of music and culture to this very specific refuge. The music represented on this recording is a cross-section of musical styles, from the bawdy stories and ballads of seduction (The Irish Soldier and the English Lady) to the fun-loving and irreverent Turnip Greens. Another concept not to be missed in these songs is the singer's right to make the songs his or her own: Track 11 is singer Neil Morris' comment on the evolving, expanding nature of music as the Ozark musicians saw it. Morris tells us that his family "said that music grew like the grapevine that is never pruned, that each year it put on a little bit more." Indeed, many of the singers--notably the well-known Almeda Riddle--made the music their own, adding and subtracting verses and changing words as their mood and the time called for.
Interspersed with the songs and snippets of conversation are instrumentals by banjo player Bookmiller Shannon and fiddler Absie Morrison. Their skill attests to the clear fact that Mountain View was an attraction for fine fiddlers and instrumentalists--in Lomax' view, as musically significant as Galax, Virginia, and Pipers Gap, North Carolina.
Seven days, six artists, a fifty-mile radius--on the surface not the stuff of a major recording; however, the depth and variety easily contradicts this first impression. Southern Journey V.7, Ozark Frontier is a significant folk collection and an enjoyable recording. I encourage you to listen to it.
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Edited by Cynthia A. Harney