A wonderfully comprehensive overview of the recordings of traditional ballad singer Texas Gladden, Ballad Legacy is a near-essential document for fans of the near-extinct genre. Although somewhat ethnomusicalogical in its bent, the set and its superbly assembled accompanying booklet never come off as overly academic, though the average folk music enthusiast may not be enthralled with 78 minutes of largely unaccompanied ballad singing. Still, the material presented is nothing short of first rate, presenting Gladden's nuanced Appalachian styling in all its hauntingly sweet and aching earnestness. As she originally came to the public's attention at Virginia folk music festivals in the late 1930s for her renditions of a storehouse of antique songs from the British Isles, Gladden drew the attention of Alan Lomax, who saw her as one of the greatest examples the genre offered. With her notoriety peaking with a performance at the White House at the behest of Eleanor Roosevelt, Gladden again faded into obscurity, only to be rediscovered by artists such as Joan Baez in the early 1960s. The 37 tracks here, with a few selections featuring her brother Hobart Smith on guitar and a few comprised of interviews, should provide an excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn the gorgeous old tunes, or simply experience the vibrancy of the stories and truisms lost to the collective American past.
AllMusic Review by Matt Fink