A delightful collection of vintage string band tracks from the late '20s and early '30s, Old Mountain is as kinetic as a bunch of kids chasing chickens, with loose-limbed fiddle runs exploding at every turn. A somewhat forgotten genre, string bands in their time were an indispensable part of rural community life, and these bands were particularly suited for live shows, rattling off reels, quicksteps, and waltzes for dances where the only rule was to move your feet. Within that framework, however, as this disc shows, there was room for variety, including gallows confessions (Kelly Harrell's "Charles Guiteau," one of the highlights here, is the first-person story of the man who assassinated U.S. President James Garfield in 1881, complete with fiddle blasts from the great Posey Rorer), surrealistic lyrics (the delightfully odd "Cotton-Eyed Joe" by the Carter Brothers & Son makes little literal sense, but rocks like an unhinged chair in a hurricane), and even gutbucket country blues ("Carroll County Blues" by Narmour & Smith). Several historical elements surfaced to shoulder the string band tradition to the sidelines, including the rise of personable country crooners like Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, and Jimmie Davis, and the development of live amplified sound, which allowed individual instruments to take center stage, upsetting the ensemble balance that was at the heart of these wonderful old bands. Something of the spirit of the string band survives in modern bluegrass, but no bluegrass band has ever been as wild, woolly, loose, and explosive as the groups represented here.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett