Various Artists

Seedtime on the Cumberland, Vol. 3: Music From 1987-1994

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Like the two volumes before it, this disc consists of recordings culled from stage performances at the annual Seedtime on the Cumberland festival in Whitesburg, KY, sponsored by Appalshop, a media arts and cultural center and home to the venerable June Appal record label. The festival is designed to represent the whole spectrum of Appalachian folk art, and if the music on this disc is any indication, it succeeds admirably. Yes, you have the artists you'd expect -- Jean Ritchie with her dulcimer, singing the hilarious "Reckless Boy" with her sister Edna, the legendary African-American fiddler Joe Thompson, and an array of obscure string bands and fiddlers. But there are also a couple of exquisite Piedmont blues numbers by the great guitarist Etta Baker, several contributions from the Macedonia Choir (an African-American gospel group), and a Cherokee song performed by Walker Calhoun. Some of the songs themselves are unusual variants on familiar tunes, such as the strange G minor arrangement of "Blackberry Blossom" performed by Owen "Snake" Chapman and Paul Smith, and "I Love the Lord," a gospel number performed by the Macedonia Choir in a style that combines the "lining-out" tradition of the white churches with the melismatic lead style and harmonies of black ones. Not everything here is wonderful, but most of it is, and all of it is worth hearing.