The New Christy Minstrels

Exciting New Folk Chorus

  • AllMusic Rating
    6
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

This is the debut long-player from the ten-piece acoustic folk orchestra otherwise known as the New Christy Minstrels. The congregate began their journey as an experiment by singer/songwriter Randy Sparks (guitar/vocals/arrangements) in combining the collective sound of several smaller units into a folky supergroup. Under Sparks' (guitar/vocals/arrangements) direction, the first generation of the NCM would also feature the talents of his ex-wife, Jackie Miller (banjo/vocal), plus a couple of early L.A. folkies by the name of Billy Cudmore (banjo/vocals) and Terry Wadsworth (guitar/vocals), as well as a short-lived association with a Eugene, OR-based quartet called the Fairmount Singers and an L.A. trio known as the Inn Group, who featured a very young Jerry Yester, in addition to a couple of strong soloists in the form of Dolan Ellis and Art Podell. This combination was developing well until literally days prior to recording the tracks of this album in mid-April 1962; the Fairmount Singers had to bow out of the band due to a poorly scheduled prior engagement. The remainder of the combo was able to regroup, and on Presenting: The New Christy Minstrels (1962), their young, fresh, and modern approach to traditional American folk music would ultimately garner a Grammy win in the Best Performance by a Chorus category for 1962. A majority of the 14 sides featured on the disc are covers or traditional tunes -- such as the rousing rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" that opens the disc. Interspersed among them are a few original compositions from Terry Wadsworth -- such as the lilting and poignant "Don't Cry, Suzanne" and the underrated classic "Wellinbrook Well." In addition to reworking the arrangements, Sparks also contributes the brilliant bout of wordplay on the nursery rhythmic "Whistle" as well as co-contributing to the robust, high-steppin' "Springfield Fair," which recalls the giddy and lighthearted lyrical banter of "Jenny Jenkins," another traditional folk song. However, the album primarily consists of material that would become synonymous with the early-'60s youth-driven folk movement. "That Big Rock Candy Mountain," "Cotton Picker's Song," "Oh! Shenando," and "In the Pines" are among the most memorable performances from the ensemble. Their immense talents, along with some equally skilled management, scored the group a series of reoccurring spots on The Andy Williams Show. However, before they joined that cast in the fall of 1962, this incipient incarnation of the NCM fell apart, making their debut likewise the ultimate release to feature the original personnel. By this time, Sparks had obviously grown accustomed to the revolving-door cast, as their follow-up LP, an in-the-studio live mock-up called The New Christy Minstrels in Person (1962), likewise includes a unique lineup as well as another batch of luminous melodies from the heart of the American spirit.

blue highlight denotes track pick