Reviews/Comments for CDs
#20 for March 2009
Whitetop Mountain Band "Loafer's Dream" RMR #7 VA Bluegrass State
Charts for Feb./March 2009
"Loafer's Dream is a beautifully crafted collection of songs. You'll have a hard time deciding whether
to linger on the porch swing and listen to them sing ot learn to flatfoot so you can get up and dance!"
WAMU's Bluegrass Country
Washington, DC Dec. 2008
Bluegrass Rambles CD Review
Karl and Gail Cooler's new Mountain Roads label continues its winning streak with this superb release by
the Whitetop Mountain Band, from Grayson County in southwestern Virginia along the North Carolina border. (My reviews of two
earlier, equally impressive Mountain Roads CDs, by Big Country Bluegrass and the Elkville String Band, appeared here on 20 December 2008 and 9 January 2009 respectively.) That region's rich traditions, Mountain
Roads' raison d'etre, have gone a long way toward defining what we think of as mountain music. Loafer's Dream informs
doubters and pessimists that Southern string-band music -- whose golden age is supposed to have been in the 1920s -- not only
lives but flourishes.
Though WMB performs at festivals around the country, it is also a popular regional square-dance band. In common
with Mountain Roads' other acts, it is a genuinely rural ensemble, not a revival group in the fashion of the New Lost City
Ramblers and their many descendents. The creation of influential fiddler and luthier Albert Hash in the 1940s, WMB was founded
a decade before urban folk-music enthusiasts "discovered" old-time music.
Three of the current lineup's five members are Spencers -- fiddler Thornton and his multi-instrumentalist
wife Emily and their daughter Martha -- complemented ably by mandolinist Jackson Cunningham and acoustic bassist Debbie Bramer.
Emily and Martha split the bulk of lead-vocal and harmony duties, and they sing with beauty and intensity in the pure Appalachian
style. The band sizzles without ever sounding soullessly slick.
The 15 cuts showcase traditional songs and fiddle tunes, three in-the-tradition originals, and inspired covers
of songs from the hard-core bluegrass repertoire (Ralph Stanley's "If That's the Way You Feel," Francis Bell & Bill Grant's
"Moods of a Fool"). Though the WMB is not a bluegrass outfit, the echoes of the genre at its most deeply rooted are everywhere
apparent. I also am impressed that pieces ordinarily done as instrumentals ("Train 45," "Sally Anne"), at least when bluegrassers
tackle them, have their lyrics restored, and with gorgeous harmonies to boot.
Hearing old-time mountain music for the first time in the mid-1960s, I knew that my life would never be the
same. It would be better. The Whitetop Mountain Band, which carries the finest of the Appalachian tradition into the present
and beyond, makes my heart glad.