JP Harris – Dreadful Wind & Rain – Don’t You Marry No Railroad Man
It’s brave to lead off a CD with a Scottish ballad known as “The Daemon Lover,” “James Harris,” & more traditionally here as “House Carpenter.” Recorded many times since 1930 Mr. Harris’ (a real carpenter) rendition has a potent & modernized realistic swipe at a dusty gem. ”Closer to the Mill,” is also provided with a fiery fiddle & Harris’ perfect-sounding traditional voice with just a pinch of processing to allow him to sound – live & not in a closet.
Harris’s voice is natural for these types of songs though he should be careful not to overdo the effects on his voice. Though well applied here more traditional-attuned ears may cringe. I didn’t. Traditionalists are funny about things like that.
“Mole In the Ground,” is full-bodied, clear fiddle, backup voice haunting & strong. Harris is faithful to this kind of music – he has a natural affinity for the necessary wood smoke, dusty grapes, & a jug of whiskey on the floor by the hound. His voice is from another era & indeed falls back into more traditional vocalizing on “Country Blues,” sourced from Dock Boggs & Doc Watson. Paired with a Taj Mahal-Keb’ Mo type guitar JP’s on the money.
On Dreadful Wind & Rain – Don’t You Marry No Railroad Man (Drops June 25 – Free Dirt) JP Harris brings these dusty traditional songs into the 21st Century playing his own banjo, & handmade instruments. Joining Harris is Chance McCoy (fiddler), on 10-cuts of ancient ballads stretching through Appalachia as well as the British Isles. Harris drenches the oldies in authenticity & the antiquity of each melody shines.
Produced by Mr. McCoy in West Virginia, the LP will please lovers of old ballads because at no time is it tweaked to diminish the depth of the roots these notes sprout from. Harris laid down some fresh dirt & mulch & watered these rural songs into a new life.
One of the deepest & attractive tunes is “The Little Carpenter.” The original tune was found on a Lomax field recording by Blind James Howard of Harlan, KY around 1933. A more upbeat bandit ballad “Otto Wood,” comes from the 19th Century. The song had been done by Doc Watson & Norman Blake, but JP says he first heard his by modern banjo master & historian Bob Carlin. And that’s how ancient songs continue to be passed along.
There are many vintage songs that JP Harris will be able to pluck from dusty shelves – either in sheet music, cylinder discs, or albums made by Howard Smith, the Lomax Brothers & private collections. Harris will never run out of material. And he shouldn’t. His efforts are not just entertainment but preserving some musical history.
History often draws on a story that could’ve been true.
The 32-minute CD is available @ Amazon & https://freedirt.net/products/jp-harris-dreadful-wind-and-rain-dont-you-marry-no-railroad-man