Black, White and Bluegrass

Allerton & Alton

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Black, White and Bluegrass Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

An oddity in bluegrass history, the duo of Allerton Hawkes and Alton Myers defied almost every country music convention of the ‘40s. They were an old-fashioned string band hailing not from Appalachia but from Maine, never a hotbed of country-picking, but more importantly, they were an interracial duo at a time and in a genre where such acts were uncommon. The African American Myers was on guitar while Hawkes played mandolin, the two singing close harmonies on a songbook consisting of folk standards, tunes from Flatt & Scruggs, the Carter Family, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Thompson. Allerton & Alton, their full names chosen for their stage name as it had a stronger ring, didn’t play much outside of their region, and they didn’t cut singles in a studio, so Bear Family's excavation of radio sessions for their 2010 disc Black, White & Bluegrass is rather remarkable. Previous to this, Allerton & Alton were talked about but rarely, if ever, heard, so this gives life to their small-scale legend, proving that the duo was quite a capable close harmony unit and pickers. If their backstory wasn’t quite so unique, the music itself might not gather much attention: it’s merely solid, straight-ahead stuff, notable not for its virtuosity, but rather its warmth, Allerton & Alton sounding like a pair of friends trading licks at home. The duo wound up splitting when they were both drafted into the Korean War, Hawkes pursuing a professional musical career to greater effect than Myers, but the music they made in the ‘40s stands: it’s tied to the time yet stands outside of it, by two unwitting pioneers that wanted nothing more than to carry on a tradition.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Allerton & Alton 00:56 Amazon
Allerton & Alton 04:36 Amazon
3 Allerton & Alton 03:24 Amazon
4 Allerton & Alton 02:19 Amazon
5 Allerton & Alton 01:54 Amazon
6 Allerton & Alton 01:11 Amazon
Allerton & Alton 02:56 Amazon
8 Allerton & Alton 03:52 Amazon
9 Allerton & Alton 04:55 Amazon
10 Allerton & Alton 01:09 Amazon
11 Allerton & Alton 02:44 Amazon
12 Allerton & Alton 02:44 Amazon
13 Allerton & Alton 05:02 Amazon
14 Allerton & Alton 03:34 Amazon
15 Allerton & Alton 01:19 Amazon
16 Allerton & Alton 02:53 Amazon
17 Allerton & Alton 02:49 Amazon
18 Allerton & Alton 02:47 Amazon
19 Allerton & Alton 02:06 Amazon
20 Allerton & Alton 01:52 Amazon
21 Allerton & Alton 01:29
22 Allerton & Alton 01:37
23 Allerton & Alton 02:41 Amazon
24 Allerton & Alton 03:29
25 Allerton & Alton 03:05 Amazon
26 Allerton & Alton 02:54 Amazon
27 Allerton & Alton 00:18
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