Kelly Harrell - Complete Recorded Works Volume 1: 1925-1926 (CD)

$ 14.99


Release Date: 12/17/06

This album is the first of two albums covering the complete recorded works of Kelly Harrell. In his booklet notes, Tony Russell contrasts Kelly Harrell with Charlie Poole - 'Where Poole was rowdy, Harrell was serious. Charlie told jokes, but Kelly told stories'. And there you have as neat a summary of Harrell's music as you could find - his style is indeed serious, not in a po-faced sense, but in the sense that he clearly felt that telling these stories in song was a business not to be taken lightly. He evidently has a taste for the tragic ballad rather than the comic one - there is assassination, murder, starvation and suicide in these songs, not to mention the horrendous end of the driver of the Old 97 ('scalded to death by the steam'). If these descriptions make Harrell's music sound rather forbidding, they are not intended to, but it is only fair to point out that there are few laughs to be had here. Unlike a lot of the best old-time music records, this isn't dance music, but it has considerable rewards of its own to offer. Harrell's style reminds me of English traditional singers - Walter Pardon, from rural Norfolk springs to mind, with his serious, almost matter of fact delivery. The accompaniments are varied - at first the record companies didn't seem to know quite what to do with him (he played no instrument himself), and so wheeled in studio musicians to fill out the sound - the fiddle player, or players, on some of these records sound particularly inappropriate. People as varied as Carson Robison and Roy Smeck were used at one time or another. There are railroad sound effects on some tracks, and even a cuckoo whistle on 'The Cuckoo She's A Fine Bird'. At other sessions he was accompanied by Henry Whitter on harmonica and guitar, and this seems to suit him better. Best of all, though, is the session with Posey Rorer (Charlie Poole's fiddle player), R.D. Hundley on banjo and Alfred Steagall on guitar. But the point is that whatever the backing, Kelly Harrell remains steadfast to the job in hand, telling his stories of roving blades, broken hearts and rash promises. He isn't Charlie Poole, that's for sure, but his legacy of traditional songs and broadsides is an immensely valuable one.

Label: Document Records
Genre: Country
Run Time: 70 mins

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