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Various Artists

Old-Time Mountain Banjo – 2005 (County)

Reviewed by David McPherson

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Originally released by County in 1969 as "Mountain Banjo Songs & Tunes," this collection was the first ever issued record of pre-war banjo performances. Now, more than 35 years later, the label returns with an updated collection of banjo music showing the variety of styles and approaches artists have taken to pickin'.

It is believed that African slaves first brought the banjo to North America, and gradually white minstrels and broader segments of society began playing banjo.Artists from Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee are all represented, while styles covered include the clawhammer, three-finger, classical and minstrel. Nine of the original tracks from the 1969 recording are included, along with 10 additional songs showing the diverse banjo styles. Highlights include Frank Jenkins' "Baptist Shout," the Red Headed Fiddlers barn-storming "Far in the Mountain" and Dock Walsh's "Going Back to Jericho."

Liner notes feature vintage black and white photos culled from Jim Bollman's collection of some of these early pickers. Noted musician Bob Buckingham offers a well-written essay that describes each of the songs. For pure enthusiasts and musicians, Buckingham has also included the banjo tunings used on each song. "Old-Time Mountain Banjo" is a great introduction to this unique sounding instrument and a good historical record of how the banjo has fit into many different styles and lifestyles throughout the years.