Rebel reissues- Dave Evans, Curly Ray Cline, & The Country Gentlemen

My reviews of Rebel Records digital downloads were posted at Lonesome Road Review.

The Country Gentlemen
The Young Fisherwoman
Rebel Records (digital download only)
4.5 stars (out of 5)

Curly Ray Cline
Chicken Reel
Rebel Records (digital download only)
3.5 stars (out of 5)

Dave Evans
Bluegrass Memories
Rebel Records (digital download only)
4.5 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

One commends Rebel Records for enriching the bluegrass marketplace by to pulling classic, out-of-print recordings from the vaults. Several digital reissues have come our way recently and each has much to recommend them.

Dave Evans’ 1984 Rebel issue was Bluegrass Memories. A handful of tracks from this album are on the Classic Bluegrass disc, but several of the songs will be new to those coming to Evans late.

Aside from sporting one of the finest bluegrass album covers I can recall, the 12-song set is without fault. Three Evans originals anchor the set and each provides essential listening: “When the Snow Falls on My Foggy Mountain Home” and “If I Ever Get Back to Old Kentucky” capture phrases and images not unique to Evans, but his vocal performance—augmented by superb fiddling—on these numbers raise them above others’ songwriting.

“My Bluegrass Memories” serves as a tribute to the founding fathers of the genre and a more sincere and expansive recognition is now difficult to imagine, and Evans isn’t above dropping in a reference to his own “Highway 52.” Aside from these, the highlight may be the distinctive performance of “Down in the Willow Garden,” one of the finest interpretations of the song ever heard.

True to the album’s title, songs from times well before the 1980s are included. “Tragic Romance,” “Sweet Thing,” “Someone Took My Place with You,” and “Six Feet Under the Ground” require no introduction to even the most casual of bluegrass listeners. Sung by Evans, the songs sound even more impressive; not intimidated by tradition, Evans’ distinctive voice makes each of these songs his own, if only for a few minutes.

Now, if Rebel would follow the lead of other labels and artists—Smithsonian Folkways, Rounder, Chris Jones, among others—and offer up liner notes for downloads, one will be more satisfied and be able to answer queries including: Who is singing lead on Bluegrass Memories’ “Rock Bottom?” Jim Rigsby, perhaps?

Curly Ray Cline recorded several albums for Rebel Records and his first—1971’s Chicken Reel—is again available.

According to the one-sheet, these dozen tracks feature the Clinch Mountain Boys of the era, and a finer backing band for Cline’s old-time inspired sounds is difficult to imagine: Ralph Stanley (banjo), Jack Cooke (bass), Ricky Skaggs (mandolin) and Roy Lee Centers and Keith Whitley (guitar).

Largely instrumental, a couple vocal numbers are included including “Walkin’ in My Sleep.”

Not professing to be any kind of fiddle expert, the tunes and renditions included here don’t sound especially original or distinctive, which isn’t to imply they aren’t thoroughly enjoyable. One always appreciates hearing “Soldier’s Joy” and “Leather Britches,” but one imagines the album was created more for table sales than as an artistic statement on the state of bluegrass and old-time fiddling circa 1971.

His rewriting of “Black-Eyed Susie” as “Blue-Eyed Vertie” is certainly a nice addition to any collection, as are the performances of “Carroll County Blues” and “The Old Rugged Cross,” the latter of which features fine accompaniment from Stanley.

Made up of studio tracks from the very early 1960’s, 1970’s The Best of the Early Country Gentlemen, retitled The Young Fisherwoman in this Rebel campaign, is simply an outstanding example of the classic Country Gents presentation. Listening to these songs almost fifty years after they were recorded reminds one that the harmonies of this outfit set new standards within bluegrass.

The performances, once considered progressive, have now become as traditional as those of the Stanleys and Bill Monroe, albeit with an entirely different sound. Obviously a product of its time, the recordings have such a heavy vocal folk sound—The Kingston Trio are never far from mind—that when an Eddie Adcock banjo run comes to the fore, as in “500 Miles,” one is a little taken aback.

If only for the title track, which according to the label hasn’t been available for some thirty years, “Copper Kettle,” and as a remembrance of the majesty of the original Gents lineup—Adcock, John Duffey, Tom Gray, and Charlie Waller—The Young Fisherwoman is appealing. Fortunately, there is much more within these 36 minutes.

Keep the re-releases coming, Rebel.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.


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