The second instalment in CHM Records' luminous Mountain Music Collection (1994) focuses on the fairer sex with a 20-track overview of authentic bluegrass and seminal country sides distilled out of the Appalachian hills and hollows of the southeastern United States. These sides cover a wide range of subject matter, representing a significant swath of time cut across the 20th century. Tellingly, there are but a few female artists to be found here as the tradition was primarily male-dominated. The Osborne Brothers' revisitation of "Fair and Tender Ladies" is given a relatively modern interpretation, yet remains essentially true to the spirit of the Carter Family's version and boasting the Osbornes' trademark crystalline harmonies. Many of the vintage selections are transcribed directly off of the original vinyl pressings, representing some of the harder to locate material. As such, they may be of particular interest to the curious and avid collector alike. Prominent among the lot are the Stanley Brothers' spry 1949 platter "Little Glass of Wine" sporting a duet with mandolin player Pee Wee Lambert. One of the few ladies to appear on the package is the legendary Molly O'Day, whose clean banjo flailing can be heard as she leads the Cumberland Mountain Folks through a rousing rendition of "Poor Ellen Smith." Another classic circa 1946 is the ballad of "Ruby" from Cousin Emmy (aka Cynthia May Carver), who accompanies her vocals with equally expressive banjo picking. Roy Acuff & the Crazy Tennesseans' hearty workout on "New Greenback Dollar" is their personalized derivation of the popular rural melody "I Was Born in East Virginia." The 1928 recording of "William and Mary" is the oldest entry on this volume and features the relatively anonymous Marc Williams. Its inclusion is heralded as the first Williams track to be issued on CD, making Fair and Tender Ladies a must-own for inclined listeners. Each of the respective titles in the Mountain Music Collection are not only available individually, but also as part of the four-disc Rhythm of the Mountains (1995) box set.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer