The Dillards

A Long Time Ago

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According to Mitch Jayne's brief liner notes, this was the Dillards' very first concert, from the summer of 1962 (although the wording is such that it's a little vague). If this was their first concert, it's an amazingly accomplished outing for a debut. The playing and harmonies are tight and exuberant, and the repertoire diverse, from familiar tunes like "John Hardy" and "Cumberland Gap" to "Cannonball Blues" and Woody Guthrie's arrangement of "Hard, Ain't It Hard." The tempos are lightning and the picking breathlessly fast on "Katie Cline," "Banjo in the Hollow," "Buckin Mule," and the instrumentals "Cripple Creek" and "Watermelon on the Vine." In fact, they're incredibly rapid in a lot of places, but not gratuitously flash. The documentation on this set isn't the greatest; the notes offer that nine of the 16 songs are previously unreleased performances, but they don't explain where the other seven songs were issued. The important thing, though, is that the album is a good, historically valuable set of music, solid on its own merits as well.