Fifty Essential CDs of Appalachian Music


index by Mike Yates (

Fifty Essential CDs of Appalachian Music (see also here)

A. Solo/single group performers.

1.  Jean Ritchie, Ballads from her Appalachian Family Tradition.  Smithsonian-Folkways SFW CD 40145. 
Sixteen Child ballads sung by one of the greatest Appalachian singers.  Cecil Sharp would have loved this!
2.  Frank Proffitt of Reese, NC, Folk-Legacy CD-1. 
A wonderful performer who had a large repertoire of rare and unusual songs and ballads.
3.  The Watson Family, Smithsonian-Folkways CD SF40012. 
First recordings of Doc Watson and his family. 
4 – 5.  Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley.  The Original Folkways Recordings, 1960 – 1962.  CD SF40029/30.
Lovely collection of songs and instrumentals.
6.  Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Ballads, Banjo Tunes, and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina.  Smithsonian-Folkways SF CD 40082. 
Lunsford was an important collector/singer who preserved many songs and ballads which would otherwise have disappeared. 
7.  Texas Gladden, Ballad Legacy, Rounder CD 1800. 
Another splendid ballad singer.
8 – 9.  Hobart Smith, Blue Ridge Legacy, Rounder CD 1799 & In Sacred Trust.  The 1963 Fleming Brown Tapes.  Smithsonian-Folkways SFW C 40141. 
Brother of Texas Gladden, this multi-instrumentalist and singer just about sums up all that is good in Appalachian music.
10 – 11.  Roscoe Holcomb.  The High Lonesome Sound, Smithsonian-Folkways SF CD 40104 & An Untamed Sense of Control, Smithsonian-Folkways SFW CD 40144. 
Banjo-player and singer, Roscoe Holcomb first appeared on the double CD set Mountain Music of Kentucky, compiled and annotated by John Cohen (#’s 43 – 44 below).  These two solo albums confirm his status as one of the most outstanding Appalachian performers ever recorded.
12 – 13.  The Hammons Family.  The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and their Friends.  Rounder 1504/05.
A successful attempt by Carl Fleischhauer and Alan Jabbour of the Library of Congress to present a fuller, more rounded, picture of the musical culture of one Appalachian family.
14 – 16.  Dock Boggs.  Country Blues, Complete Early Recordings (1927 – 29), Revenant 205.  Dock Boggs, his Folkways Years, Smithsonian-Folkways SF 40108. 
Three CDs worth of material from the legendary banjo-player/singer who cut twelve sides in 1927 – 29 before vanishing into obscurity.  He was rediscovered some thirty years later, when he was recorded extensively.
17 – 18.  Ernest V Stoneman, The Unsung Father of Country Music, 1925 – 1934.  5- String Productions 5SPH 001. 
Stoneman, along with his family and friends from the area around Galax, VA, recorded dozens of songs and tunes.  This 2 CD selection contains some of the best.
19.  I’m Going Down to North Carolina.  The Complete Recordings of the Red Fox Chasers, 1928 – 31.Tompkins Square TSQ 2219. 
Excellent collection of songs and string band music from one specific region of north- west North Carolina.
20.  Da Costa Waltz’s Southern Broadcasters & Frank Jenkins’ Pilot Mountaineers, Document DOCD-8023. 
Early string bands from the area around Galax, NC.  (See also # 29 below).
21 – 24.  Charlie Poole with the North Carolina Ramblers and the Highlanders, JSP 4 CD box set, JSP7734. 
Poole’s music ranged from ancient ballads to more modern pieces, and showed how the music was rapidly changing.
25 – 28.  The Carter Family, 1927 – 1934. JSP 4 CD box set, JSPCD7001.
From the hills of Virginia.  No matter what they played, they were always rooted in their native soil.  One of the most influential groups ever to be recorded.  Their 1935 – 1941 recordings are also available on another 4 CD box set, JSP7708.
29.  Old Time Mountain Music, with Oscar Jenkins, Fred Cockerham & Tommy Jarrell, County CD 2735. 
Three friends who kept their regional music alive.  Jarrell was the son of fiddler Ben Jarrell, who recorded with Da Costa Waltz’s Southern Broadcasters in 1927.  (See # 20 above).

B. Anthologies:

30.  Dark Holler.  Old Love Songs and Ballads Smithsonian-Folkways SFW CD 40159.
Field recordings of singers who learnt their songs from people who sang to Cecil Sharp in 1916.  Also come with a DVD, The End of An Old Song, John Cohen’s portrait of Appalachian singer Dillard Chandler.
31.  High Atmosphere.  Ballads and banjo tunes from Virginia & North Carolina.  Rounder CD 0028. 
Excellent set of field recordings made by John Cohen in 1965.
32 – 38.  Kentucky Mountain Music.  Classic Recordings of the 1920s & 1930s. 
Rare and essential commercial recordings of Kentucky mountain music, together with Alan Lomax’s 1937 Kentucky Library of Congress recordings.
39.  Southern Journey.  Volume 2.  Ballads and Breakdowns, Songs from the Southern Mountains.  Rounder CD 1702.
Good selection of songs, ballads and instrumental tunes.  Other recordings by some of these artists can be found scattered throughout the other 12 CDs in this series.
40.  Music from the Lost Provinces.  Old-Time stringbands from Ashe County, North Carolina and Vicinity.  1927 – 1931.  Old Hat CD-1001. 
Important early recordings by such people as Grayson & Whitter, Frank Blevins, Jack Reedy and The Hill Billies.
41 – 42.  Mountain Music of Kentucky, compiled and annotated by John Cohen.  Smithsonian-Folkways SF CD 40077. 
Great selection of recordings made in 1959.
43 – 44.  The Traditional Music of Beech Mountain.  Volume 1, The Older ballads and Gospel Songs, Folk-Legacy CD-22.  The Traditional Music of Beech Mountain.  Volume 2, The Later Songs and Hymns, Folk-Legacy CD-23. 
Two of the best albums ever made of traditional Appalachian singers and their ballads and songs.
45 – 48.  Meeting’s a Pleasure.  Folk-Songs from the Upper South, Volumes 1 & 2, and Volumes 3 & 4.  Two double CDs.  Musical Traditions MTCD505-6 & MTCD507-8.
Over 130 tracks of material collected in Kentucky & West Virginia, showing a very strong tradition.
49 – 50.  The North Carolina Banjo Collection, Rounder CD 0439/40. 
The banjo entered the Appalachians via Afro/American slaves.  These two CDs show just how much one instrument could influence the various directions that traditional music could take.

2 Responses to “Fifty Essential CDs of Appalachian Music”

  1. pfeldmann Says:

    Really in poor taste to list the JSP sets of the Carter Family, which were a direct rip off of Richard Weise’s carefully-crafted set on Bear Family Records: “In The Shadow Of Clinch Mountain”, complete with a large *book* of text and rare photos. Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum prevails here, apparently.

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