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review: Red Allen reissues

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  • joe ross
    Hi, please read on if you d like to know more about these May releases from Rebel Records of Red Allen s music. Sorry this is so long. How did you feel when
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 5, 2004
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      Hi, please read on if you'd like to know more about these May releases from
      Rebel Records of Red Allen's music. Sorry this is so long. How did you feel
      when you first heard Red's music? And if you've never heard, studied, and
      enjoyed it, you really ought to pick up these 60-70 minute CDs to do so.
      Pique on.
      Joe

      RED ALLEN � Keep on Going: The Rebel & Melodeon Recordings
      REB-CD-1127
      Playing Time � 60:28

      RED ALLEN � Lonesome and Blue: The Complete County Recordings
      REB-CD-1128
      PO Box 7405
      Charlottesville, VA. 22906
      WEB: www.rebelrecords.com
      Playing Time � 70:11

      Originally from Pigeon Roost, Kentucky, Harley �Red� Allen lived in Dayton,
      Ohio for most of his career. He formed his first band �The Kentuckians� in
      the early 1950s, and he is one of the pioneers of bluegrass. His singing in
      trios with The Osborne Brothers were enough to knock your socks off. They
      won a contract with MGM Records and appeared on the WWVA Jamboree from
      Wheeling, W.V. in the mid-50s. Differences of opinion over a progressive vs.
      traditional approach to their music probably led to them parting ways in
      1958. Red Allen was a staunch traditionalist up until he started picking
      songs like �Proud Mary� later in life with his sons.

      These two releases are monumental reissues. CD-1127 includes 23 tracks, five
      of which are previously unreleased cuts. After moving to Washington, D.C.,
      in 1959, Red formed The Kentuckians with Frank Wakefield. Six cuts capture
      the creative relationship that they enjoyed before they went their separate
      ways in 1964. The Kentuckians� �solid bluegrass sound� was then built around
      good song selection, exceptional instrumental work, and excellent harmony.
      The previously unreleased cuts include three with Frank Wakefield (Don�t Lie
      to Me, Lonesome Weary Heart, I Don�t Believe You�d Do Me Wrong), and two
      with The Kentuckians (If That�s the Way You Feel, Purple Heart). Red Allen
      and Frank Wakefield�s renditions of �Little Birdie� and �Sad and Lonesome
      Day� are truly classics. Of special merit are those songs that are still
      standard bluegrass repertoire today like Close By, Out on the Ocean, Hello
      City Limits, Down Where the River Bends, and The Family Who Prays. Two
      different versions of �Froggy Went A Courtin�,� the old folk tune done
      bluegrass style are offered.

      CD-1128 has 25 tracks and includes two entire albums from the County label
      recorded in 1965 and 1966. When originally released, County-704 and
      County-710 met with mixed reviews. In the first issue of Bluegrass
      Unlimited, Richard Spottwood wrote that the first album was �grass of the
      high quality we�ve come to expect from this group, although a fairly large
      proportion of the songs are derived from other records by Flatt & Scruggs,
      Johnnie & Jack, etc. The recording suffers from over-brilliance, but this
      will not disturb most.� Joining Allen were Bill Yates, Wayne Yates, Porter
      Church and Richard Greene. The Louvin Bros.� song, �Seven Year Blues� is
      previously unreleased.

      Regarding County-710, Spottswood said �Neither Red nor his fellow pickers
      are inspired here, with the exception of dobroist Wingfield. If the rest of
      the picking had been up to his level, this album would�ve been truly
      exceptional. It�s a good set, though, and if you have Red�s other albums
      you�ll enjoy this one too.� I offer these comments only to show how time and
      history can potentially alter our perceptions. Nowadays, many often prefer
      traditional covers performed with crisp, clean brilliance. And besides Red,
      the players that were being criticized for less-than-inspired playing
      include David Grisman, Porter Church, and Jerry McCoury. I found these
      players to be right on the money with these great old songs. One can hardly
      go wrong with classics like We Live in Two Different Worlds, Are You Waiting
      Just For Me?, My Baby�s Gone, Love Gone Cold, and Whose Shoulder Will You
      Cry On? The Roy Acuff number �Branded Wherever I Go� is previously
      unreleased.

      In 1967, Allen moved to Nashville to temporarily replace an ill Lester Flatt
      in Flatt & Scruggs. In the late 1960s, Red Allen worked with J.D. Crowe and
      Doyle Lawson in the Kentucky Mountain Boys.
      With his sons Harley, Greg and Neal, Red performed together as �The Allen
      Brothers� in the early seventies. Neal died from pneumonia in 1974, while
      Harley is singer/songwriter in Nashville. In 1976, Red Allen retired from
      music due in part to health problems (open-heart surgery). In 1984, he
      formed �The New Kentuckians.� In 1992, he recorded an album with David
      Grisman, Herb Pederson and Jerry Garcia which was nominated for a Grammy
      Award. On April 3, 1993, Red passed away from lung cancer.

      Red Allen�s classic work on the Melodeon, Rebel and County labels is part of
      the very foundation of traditional bluegrass. These reissues should be an
      integral part of everyone�s collection to highlight and document some key
      milestones in the remarkably talented guitarist and singer�s long and
      successful bluegrass career. (Joe Ross)

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