REVIEW: Martha Spencer Shows Family Is Still Strong in Mountain Music


There has always been a strong connection between families and music in Appalachia – most notably with the Carter Family. On her new self-titled album Martha Spencer shows that the family connection is still strong in mountain music.

One good example is the first song “Blue Ridge Mountain Lullaby” in which Spencer sings about falling asleep to her daddy playing classic bluegrass songs like “Soldier’s Joy” on his fiddle. Billy Hurt Jr. provides a beautiful fiddle part in this song that makes you wish you were lucky enough to fall asleep to a lullaby played by your family.

Spencer covers “Hard Headed Woman” with vocals that have a toughness like Wanda Jackson, yet she sounds sweet at the same time. She rocks song this as hard as Elvis did. A real highlight of this song – aside from the vocals – is the Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano part played by Brennen Ernst. If that doesn’t get you moving, it’s hard to know what will.
“Let the Wild Stay Free” is an anthem for those “wild mountain spirits” who don’t want to settle down. “they’ll never be happy until they’re free.” This uptempo is powered by some fast banjo picking. The fiddle also plays a prominent part in driving this song. This one will make you want to get on the road with no particular destination in mind.

When Spencer sings songs like “Rambling Woman,” it’s easy to imagine her in black and white on one of those old-time live-music shows like The Big D Jamboree that were ahead of their time for giving the spotlight to female vocalists. It’s even easier to imagine when you hear her vocal yelps and the way she elongates the name in “Ruby.” While this song doesn’t seem quite as much like a song you’d hear at a family gathering, it does feature Martha’s parents Thornton (fiddle) and Emily (banjo).

Spencer moves easily from traditional bluegrass to early rock and roll sounds. While she sings well in a bluegrass style, she could just as easily front a rockabilly band. You don’t have to live near mountains to appreciate the mountain music on this album, which is available everywhere on October 26. Order your copy at

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