Doug Wallin and his brother Jack were born into North Carolina's Madison County, a region well-known for its long legacy of music-making; several of the brothers' older relatives had sung for British folklorist Cecil Sharp between 1910-1920, and other family members as well as neighbors have been recorded often since the 1960s. In Family Songs and Stories From the North Carolina Mountains, Doug takes center stage, relaying the local and family traditions of love ballads, hymns, and fiddle music; brother Jack appears on only three of the tracks, but offers strong performances on banjo, guitar, and vocals. While the idea of 14 a cappella ballads may seem much for most listeners, the performances are so nicely delivered that the disc could in fact stand to have a few more songs from either of the brothers. Doug's singing of ancient British and early American ballads is peerless in modern times, his singing remarkably even and elegant; Jack's instrumental talents are also fine, and his own lively songs provide a nice break from the ballad singing. Also breaking up any potential monotony are a small handful of short, entertaining stories from Doug, who seems as natural a storyteller as a singer. The 19 total tracks gathered here are culled from just over 60 field recordings made in 1992 and 1993; hopefully, more of those songs and stories will be available in the future. Meanwhile, this sampling of the Wallins' repertoires should be embraced by lovers of traditional music.
Family Songs and Stories From the North Carolina Mountains Review
by Burgin Mathews