You Can’t Beat the Classics

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Sit in on just about any old-time music session in the Triangle, and sooner or later someone may ask for “Kitchen Girl,” “Over the Waterfall” or another tune handed down from the 1960s by the Hollow Rock String Band.

Based in the Hollow Rock community of Durham, the band recorded two albums that predated and set the stage for the Red Clay Ramblers, founded in 1972. Folklorist and fiddler Alan Jabbour was the source of much Hollow Rock repertoire, which he had learned and recorded in the Virginia home of octogenarian fiddler, Henry Reed.

“You Can’t Beat the Classics” is a 19-track CD featuring a dozen Henry Reed tunes, plus selections from Burl Hammons, Snake Chapman and others. They’re performed by Jabbour, retired director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, master banjoist Ken Perlman and former Red Clay Rambler and Hollow Rock guitarist Jim Watson.

The “classics” here refer to standard old-time gems, such as “Old Joe Clark,” “Hell Among the Yearlings” and “Turkey in the Straw.” With two exceptions, all selections, recorded in Chapel Hill’s Rubber Room studio, are instrumentals. The songs – “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” and “Casey Jones” – are sung by Watson in his distinctively ethereal tenor.

Familiar tunes are given new voicings, while others recorded for the first time may provide fresh repertoire for old-time enthusiasts. Together, they offer harmonious continuity from past to present for all who delight in the old-time way. Jabbour’s informative booklet provides discussions for each tune, along with tunings for banjo and/or fiddle.

To order, send $17.50 to Jim Watson, 132 Justice St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516.

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