When I first became interested in stringband music in the early 1970s, my strongest influences were Clarence Ashley, Fred Price, Clint Howard and Doc Watson, musicians who lived in the mountains near where North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia meet. Their music had been documented on Folkways records, which could be purchased at the local Record Bar. More important, Jim Collier, a high school classmate, had become acquainted with Arnold Watson, Doc’s older brother. Jim was learning from and playing in a band with Arnold and fiddler Gaither Carlton, which further inspired me to try to learn their music. This was a time before the strict definitions of “old-time” and “bluegrass” became so rigid, and the music that Jim was learning was very old-timey yet at the same time had touches of modern influences. In recent years, Jim and I formed the Piney Woods Boys with Matt Haney of Chapel Hill, a wonderful musician who originally hails from Minnesota and grew up playing bluegrass and stringband music with his brothers. We get together every week or so to play the music that we loved so much in our youth. Here are two pieces inspired by Ashley, Price, Howard and Watson. Clarence Ashley recorded “Rude and Rambling Man,” in 1929 and again in the 1960s for Folkways. “The Crawdad Song” was one of our favorite pieces from the Folkways album “Old-TIme Music at Clarence Ashley’s.”The Piney Woods Boys performed these songs in a house concert presented in 2013.
Piney Woods Boys