On Top Of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music

Various Artists

Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2016

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Sometimes, a creative idea works. Such is the case for the third release by The Great Smoky Mountains Association. While they continue their exploration of music originating in the Great Smoky Mountain area of the United States, this time, they have gathered modern day artists to presents a legacy of the area.

The 23 tracks by various artists presents traditional folk music and bluegrass tunes from the Smoky Mountains area. This is a raw and stripped-down release, and unless you are a fan of this brand of music, many of the artists will not be recognizable. The one recognizable performer is Dolly Parton, who revisits "Little Rosewood Casket" from her trio days with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. Here, Parton gives a haunting rendition that carries you back about a century.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The songs can be considered classic folk songs that are indigenous to the area. They represent the cultural heritage of the people who used to populate the area before much of it became a national park. Many of the songs were originally preserved as field recordings by Joseph Sargent Hall in 1939, who was seeking to save the heritage of the region. Now, modern technology allows these songs to come to life in a way that was unimagined at their creation.

"On Top Of Old Smokey" is the first track and is sung a cappella by Carol Elizabeth Jones. This version of the song focuses on the lyrics in a way that is not usually associated with this old tune and is representative of the album's approach of preserving the heritage of this old material.

"Black Mountain Rag," which features fiddle player Trevor Stuart, banjo player Travis Stuart, and guitarist Jeff Keith, and "Bonaparte's Retreat" by fiddler Bruce Greene are examples of the origins of what was to become bluegrass music. "I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home" by singer/guitarist Bryan Sutton is a poignant song of longing for home that was probably sung around the campfire on a journey.

The enclosed booklet provides a history of the area, as well as a review of all 23 songs and the artists; it also includes the lyrics.

On Top Of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music is a trip back in time for anyone interested in the musical heritage of an area of the United States. This release is a labor of love that works.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2016 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Great Smoky Mountains Association, and is used for informational purposes only.