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

THE STAGE HOGS
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.  -  www.music-savers.com for Country Music News International

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