Red Clay Ramblers have been going for more than 40 years, but somehow they have slipped under my radar in spite of releasing lots of records, touring internationally and taking part in many theatre productions. The title of this CD is in celebration of their home state North Carolina, and on the web page it is described as a “North Caroliana” record.
When I first put the record in the CD player I almost got the impression of this being a collection of recordings from different groups. But with three of the six members on it being multi-instrumentalists, and both string and wind instruments included it makes way for diversity. At times they sound like an old time string band playing pre-country music, at other times they remind you of the Band, and sometimes they are very close to old music hall style.
They start off with “Fall on My Knees/Wandering Boy” in the old pre-country style, with lots of nice fiddle and banjo playing. The song and the tune is joined together almost seamlessly. In “My Baby Loves Kay Kyser” and the old classic “Dinah” they show their music hall style to great effect. In “If a Man Had the Sense of a Mule” they are in Band-territory, and they do that very well. The following “It’s Hard to Be Good Without You” sounds like an old slow jazz standard, with jazzy guitar chords, soft drums and then a muted trumpet solo in the middle. Great stuff!
“Leaving Home” is a version of the well-known “Frankie & Johnny”. RCR turn into a jug band song with lots of piano and a tuba providing the bass part. It makes way for way it the centre piece of the album “The Old North State Ramble” a ten-minute-suite containing “The Old North State”, the state song of North Carolina, a couple of fiddle tunes and some orchestral interludes. It is performed by RCCR and the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra. It was put together by the group’s Jack Herrick for a New Year’s Eve concert. I must say it is one of the best examples of marriage between folk and classic music I have heard.
I am not too wild about every single track on this album, but it has its fair share of highlights, and some of it is quite amazing. If you like Americana and things like The Lost City Ramblers or The Band you should check it out.
(Red Clay Ramblers, 2009)