Here comes a great new record, folks. From the very jowls of America, Ben Collier’s new release Rags, Reels and Relics is sure to be a Certified Number One Hit across the country.
Traditional music is a poor moniker for the modern revival of Appalachian, country, gospel, and delta blues music. It truly is a combination of all these many traditions and those who have continued their practice. The fiddles of the Bayou, the hymns of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the sad stomp of the Mississippi can all be found here in the music of Ben Collier.
Mr. Collier candidly captures the haunting front porch melodies of all these traditions without the the air of imitation or puppetry often found in modern recordings of the genre.
Recorded in a one room cabin in the hills of Northwest Pennsylvania where the Allegheny Plateau raises it’s head for the last time bowing to the plains of Middle America, these songs are warm, impressive tracks that immerse the listener in the very soul of the land.
Indeed, there are few artists who are capable of such an expression of the yeoman like Mr. Collier. Through the familiar rhythms and canticles of that which we call traditional music, the album does not meander, but is stricken with a sense of urgency and liveliness that is both expressive and enveloping.
Rags, Reels and Relics jumps between balladic yarns, pleading hymnals, instrumental stomps, and folksy jaunts with earnest pop sensibilities. The first track, Out in the Cold Blues is a howling original number in which Mr. Collier’s voice bewitches as it rises like a hound dog calling out for his missus. Take a Trip With Me and Candyman are jangly, hopping tunes that rely on Mr. Collier’s signature soaring tenor and borrows from the likes of the great Reverend Gary Davis and Dave Van Ronk. Poor Boy Coming Home is a hushed rags in which Mr. Collier showcases his guitar picking talent. Perhaps the entire record’s most memorable and moving track is the last of Side 1 in Tell old Bill, a loving and catchy plea that lulls the listener before emphatically reaching its pinnacle.
The album’s second side begins with a number of traditional fiddle and guitar instrumental pieces--or reels--including Crowley Waltz and Putneyville strut. Mr. Collier’s fiddling is raw, tingling and squealing, and would sound very much at home at a barn dance, campfire or front porch. Other tracks like Egg baskets, Doing Fine Rag play upon traditional refrains that is steeped in sadness and panicked jubilation all at once. Truly, the voice of the Alleghenies seems to find its way into the music through whistling echoes and ragged, scraping notes.
A live rendition of On The Floor of the Belknap Auction House is especially hypnotic; Mr. Collier’s picking is reminiscent of the ringing sound of the tea kettle, the dinner bell, dishes clanging, drinks poured: the beautiful cacophony of home. Yet there is a danger within it--a certain survivalism that is both profound and terrifying. This tempest continues in Ohio Line where warring drums and reverbed harmonies that gasp and bellow like a church organ rage with psychedelic guitar. Not only does the song showcase Mr. Collier’s musical versatility, but is reminiscent of the haunting loneliness of the great wilderness of both America and man himself. If Rain On Me is the emotional apex of the album then Little Burr is the morning after: a refreshing and bouncing rag in which the artist seems as awoken as the listener to close out the narrative of the album.
Guys and gals, this is a record not to be missed. Throughout his career as a musician (whether it be in the guitar group Ursa Major or in side projects such as Kid Brother), Ben Collier has consistently delivered extraordinarily powerful traditional music that beckons to an era not as bygone as many think. The stories Mr. Collier tells in Rags, Reels and Relics are very much eternal and authentic.
Perhaps, though, what Ben Collier does best in his recordings is invite the listener to hear what is not on the track. The rustic cabin, the untouched hills, and the ghostly sounds of stretching idyllic pastures are all there if you are willing to look for them.
Please enjoy this album and I hope you find great wonder in its melodies for many years to come.
Steven Wayne Whisler
VP of Marketing
released July 25, 2014
Ben Collier - guitar, bass, fiddle, drums
Limpin Roosevelt barnes - guitar on 'Crowley Waltz'
Haney Washburn - Madolin on 'Crowley Waltz'
If I only had the mourning to the glory as I passed it. Standing on the corner weaving egg baskets. half a million dollars wouldn't stop me from my weaving. I've been prayin for the day in which i'm never grieving. so take this and put in it something you can never hold. let the fiber cradle it until your too old. then put it in a box until the big day of the yardsale. so johnny takes it home to his girls.
Track Name: Doing Fine Rag
I got my truck stuck in a ditch. Can't seem to find a way out of it. Some folks would just go and quit. Not me I keep trying. Some folks dig a hole in the meadow. A deep deep hole in the ground.
Track Name: I Waited For / All We Did For
I waited for // all we did for
Track Name: Ohio Line
Ohio line. I will always stay so far away from you. Ohio.
Track Name: Out in the Cold Blues
big old bulldog standing by the railroad tracks hes gonna go go and send me back hes gonna grab my shirt hes gonna hold me down then tell me everything he knows to let me wander in this cold doctor doctor what is wrong with me my eyes are shut but I still can see please measure something inside of poor me and then tell me everything you know let me wander in this cold
Track Name: Rooster in Mourning
rooster in the morning he don't sound right. but he doesn't fly the coop he stays at home. he lets out that wail that long mournful wail long before the sun begins to shine.