Review  in Strings magazine, August/September 2003, No. 110.

Hollow Rock Legacy: The Hollow Rock String Band/Sandy's Fancy. Hollow Rock String Band: Alan Jabbour, fiddle; Tommy Thompson, banjo and guitar; Jim Watson, guitar, mandolin, and autoharp; and Sandy Bradley, piano and guitar. (www.redclayramblers.com)

In the mid-'60s, Alan Jabbour was a graduate student living in North Carolina, jamming at house parties with a group of friends led by banjo player and guitarist Tommy Thompson (later of the Red Clay Ramblers), and studying the Southern regional fiddle style of old-time master Henry Reed. From those parlor dates came a pair of legendary string bands. One of those, the Hollow Rock String Band, recorded its debut on the tiny Kanawha label. This anthology compiles all the tracks from the band's second and third albums, one eponymous and the other entitled Sandy's Fancy, released in 1974 on Rounder Records and in 1981 on Flying Fish, respectively. Reed, who died in 1968, had a hand in passing down 23 of the 34 tunes heard here in all their effusive old-timey glory. His influence on the old-time string-band revival can not be emphasized enough. The same can be said of Jabbour. One of the two surviving members of the Hollow Rock String Band, he went on to an illustrious career as a traditional and classical player. As an academic, he published the 1971 landmark book American Folk Tunes. In 1976 he became the founding director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and remained in that position for 23 years before his retirement in 1999. This two-CD set is a fitting addition to that legacy.

óGreg Cahill

 

Hollow Rock String Band: Hollow Rock Legacy: Hollow Rock String Band/Sandy's Fancy

Hollow Rock String Band: Hollow Rock Legacy: Hollow Rock String Band/Sandy's Fancy

Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine,  Fall, 2004  by Tom Druckenmiller

HOLLOW ROCK STRING BAND Hollow Rock Legacy: Hollow Rock String Band/Sandy's Fancy Alan Jabbour

There have been some seminal recordings from the 1960s revival of old-time music. This was a time when you could still travel throughout the Blue Ridge and the Appalachians and find first generation sources for great fiddle tunes. Henry Reed was just one of those sources and a young fiddler named Alan Jabbour spent a great deal of time with him learning his repertoire and bringing those soon-to-be classic tunes back to the music community in Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The Hollow Rock String Band was formed during this time and consisted of Jabbour on fiddle, Tommy Thompson on banjo, Bertram Levy on mandolin and Bobble Thompson on guitar. They recorded one LP on the West Virginia-based Kanawha label.

A revamped line-up recorded a follow-up LP for Rounder with a band consisting of Tommy Thompson, Jabbour and Jim Watson on guitar, mandolin and Autoharp. This recording, released on CD for the first time, is the first CD of this two-disc set. What a joy it is to once again revel in the masterful playing of this trio on 21 tunes mostly from the playing of Henry Reed but with tasty selections from the repertoire of John Lewis, Lee Triplett and "Doc" White.

The playing is much more assured and tight than on that earlier recording. Just a sampling demonstrates that. Reed tunes "The Route," "Leather Britches," "Red Fox" and others are still played as festival favorites around campfires at Clifftop and Mt. Airy. Essential listening!

But wait, there's more! Sandy's Fancy was recorded in 1981 on Flying Fish and features Jabbour, Tommy Thompson and pianist-guitarist Sandy Bradley. The addition of Sandy's piano brings a new texture to these fine dance tunes again mostly from the Henry Reed repertoire. Reed's "Shoes and Stockings" and "Schottische" would not he out of place at a square or contra dance.

The real highlight for me was the strong banjo playing of the late Tommy Thompson. He and Watson were members of the highly influential ensemble The Red Clay Ramblers whose arrangements of traditional and original tunes were so tight that often the banjo was obscured by the vocals and the string band orchestrations. On these two wonderful recordings Tommy's playing is out in the open for all to enjoy, and what a marvelous and influential player he was.

Alan Jabbour, who recently retired from the Library of Congress, has stated that he hopes to get back to playing the old music. This collection of classic tunes reissued on his own label along with a new set of Henry Reed tunes recorded with Levy and Reed's son James and a web site devoted to recordings of Reed's playing are the first in what I hope is a long string of wonderful old-time music projects from Alan Jabbour.--TD

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