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Fred McCormick of EDS

reviews Songs of Old Appalachia by Alice Wylde

In this day and age, the subtitle ‘authentic, traditional and old time mountain singing’ represents quite a claim, especially when it relates to such a little-known singer. Even so, Alice Wylde justly lives up to it. She comes from a singing family in West Virginia, and lived in the one neighbourhood there all her life, until she moved to England some years ago. Here she sings and plays banjo, while Dan Stewart, of Rattle on the Stovepipe fame, backs her on various instruments. Stylistically, she does not conform to the stereotype of the harsh, angst-ridden Appalachian mountaineer. Rather, her voice – warm, relaxed and darkly husky –reminds me somewhat of Sara Grey, while her self-effacing manner put me in mind, of all people, Walter Pardon!
Yet, for all I enjoyed the disc, I occasionally got the feeling that she hasn’t sung in public sufficiently to develop her confidence, or to knock off all the rough edges. For instance, in ‘Heart of Glass’, I found her ornamentations tended to get in the way of the words and the tune. Again, in ‘Bill Stafford’, she drags out the word Ark-an-sas, until I thought it would break. The tracklist appears to come entirely from her own heritage, and a fascinating and unusual selection it is. It’s a pity, then, that there is no information on the songs, for I wonder how many British listeners will be familiar with ‘My Old Brown Coat and Me’, or the salute to the Boston Tea Party, ‘Revolutionary Tea’. For that matter, the notes are short on biographical data, not even saying where in West Virginia she hails from.
Yet these are miniscule quibbles in a delightful release. I hope we hear a lot more of Alice Wylde in the future. Meanwhile, this disc will be wedded to my CD player for many days to come.