Masters of Old-Time Country Autoharp

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
The autoharp was invented in the 1870s as a sort of automated zither and initially was popular as a parlor instrument. It took hold in the Appalachians in the early 1900s thanks to its mail-order affordability, and local musicians quickly adapted it to an assortment of hymns, ballads, and fiddle tunes. The autoharp required frequent retunings, however, which kept it from being featured very prominently in the string band tradition of the Southern mountains, although Sara Carter played one on several of the early Carter Family recordings, and Maybelle Carte began featuring an autoharp at her shows in the 1950s, proving to be every bit as innovative on the instrument as she...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
The autoharp was invented in the 1870s as a sort of automated zither and initially was popular as a parlor instrument. It took hold in the Appalachians in the early 1900s thanks to its mail-order affordability, and local musicians quickly adapted it to an assortment of hymns, ballads, and fiddle tunes. The autoharp required frequent retunings, however, which kept it from being featured very prominently in the string band tradition of the Southern mountains, although Sara Carter played one on several of the early Carter Family recordings, and Maybelle Carte began featuring an autoharp at her shows in the 1950s, proving to be every bit as innovative on the instrument as she had been on the guitar. This delightful set of field recordings made by Mike Seeger in the 1950s and very early '60s features four masters of the Appalachian autoharp style, Virginian Ernest Stoneman (who made his first commercial autoharp recording in 1924), North Carolina father-and-son duo Neriah & Kenneth Benfield, and the left-handed Kilby Snow of Virginia (later in his life he made his home in Pennsylvania). Several of these tracks were originally released in 1962 on an LP called Mountain Music Played on Autoharp, and Seeger has here expanded the number of cuts from that release (substituting alternate takes in some cases) to make a generous survey of these unique players. Stoneman plays harmonica and sings to the accompaniment of the autoharp, turning himself into a one-man string band on songs like the banjo standard "Bile 'Em Cabbage Down" and Uncle Dave Macon's "All I Got's Gone." The Benfields turn in a wonderful autoharp duet on "Weeping Willow Tree," originally recorded by the Carter Family in 1927, while son Kenneth goes solo on impressive versions of "Old Joe Clark" and "Golden Slippers." But the clear maestro here is Kilby Snow, a left-handed player whose autoharp playing literally explodes into chiming, drag-note runs on an instrumental "John Henry," on the pretty "Close By" (recorded by both Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers in 1954), and on an amazing version of the comic fiddle tune "Chicken Reel." Fast-paced, gentle, and sounding as bright as the first day of spring, Masters of Old-Time Autoharp is a complete delight.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/25/2006
  • Label: Smithsonian Folkways
  • UPC: 093074011522
  • Catalog Number: 40115
  • Sales rank: 165,048

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Stoney's Waltz (1:58)
  2. 2 Sweet Marie (2:03)
  3. 3 John Henry (2:10)
  4. 4 May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister? (1:41)
  5. 5 She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain (1:15)
  6. 6 Sweet Sunny South (2:31)
  7. 7 Bile 'Em Cabbage Down (2:04)
  8. 8 Marching Through Georgia (1:24)
  9. 9 Wreck of Number Nine (2:53)
  10. 10 Ella's Grave (1:48)
  11. 11 Waltz (1:24)
  12. 12 Old Joe Clark (1:28)
  13. 13 Shortening Bread (1:17)
  14. 14 Cindy (1:13)
  15. 15 Budded Roses (1:56)
  16. 16 Flop-Eared Mule (1:54)
  17. 17 Home Sweet Home (2:34)
  18. 18 Springtime Again Little Annie (2:15)
  19. 19 Great Reaping Day (2:08)
  20. 20 Weeping Willow Tree - Neriah & Kenneth Benfield (2:00)
  21. 21 I'm Alone, All Alone (2:51)
  22. 22 All I Got's Gone (2:40)
  23. 23 Benfield Hoedown (Idaho Girl) (1:10)
  24. 24 Bonaparte's Retreat (1:50)
  25. 25 Chinese Breakdown (2:17)
  26. 26 Wildwood Flower (1:26)
  27. 27 Tragic Romance (1:28)
  28. 28 Close By (2:06)
  29. 29 Way Down in the Country (1:10)
  30. 30 Golden Slippers (2:14)
  31. 31 Lights in the Valley (1:29)
  32. 32 Chicken Reel (0:51)
  33. 33 Precious Jewel (3:36)
  34. 34 Muleskinner Blues (2:22)
  35. 35 Red River Valley - Jim Snow (2:14)
  36. 36 Hallelujah Slide (2:20)
  37. 37 Jacob's Ladder (1:12)
  38. 38 Ain't Going to Work Tomorrow (1:51)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Hazel Dickens Guitar
Mike Seeger Banjo, Guitar
Kilby Snow Autoharp, Track Performer
Ernest V. Stoneman Harmonica, Autoharp, Vocals, Track Performer
Wade Ward Banjo
Ken Bonfield Guitar
Neriah Benfield Autoharp
Neriah & Kenneth Benfield Track Performer
Technical Credits
Stephen Foster Composer
Roy Acuff Composer
Uncle Dave Macon Composer
Grandpa Jones Composer
Mike Seeger Producer, Engineer, Annotation
Pee Wee King Composer
Ernest V. Stoneman Composer
A.P. Carter Composer
R.E. Winsett Composer
Alton Delmore Composer
Pete Reiniger Mastering
Charles Wolfe Track Notes
James A. Bland Composer
George Vaughn Composer
Joseph Webster Composer
Ellen M. Martin Photo Printing
Neriah Benfield Composer
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