19 March 2014

A window into Appalachia

Rayna Gellert (photo: Jon Estes)

The BIB editor writes:

Many in Ireland will remember Rayna Gellert's visit in 2006 as fiddler of the ground-breaking all-girl neo-old-time string band Uncle Earl; and her solo CD Ways of the world has been for years my favourite old-time album. Rayna's latest e-newsletter announces that the band will be reuniting at the Rockygrass Festival in Colorado this coming July.

Rayna is currently on tour in Britain till 30 March; the dates are on her calendar. Fiddlers who want to learn from her and are out of easy reach can do so by Skype.

Among the things Rayna lists under the heading 'Current inspiration' is what she rightly calls 'a truly stunning interactive online documentary about McDowell County, West Virginia', called simply Hollow. The film begins with the stark statement that one in three counties in the US is dying through losing population. McDowell, where the population is now less than a quarter of its peak in the 1950s, is an example. Its story is told through the stories of many inhabitants, and their vitality and creativity is remarkable, not to mention the views one gets of this part of Appalachia. And there's some fine hard-driving bluegrass, and flatfoot dancing. Strongly recommended. Read the newsletter in full here.

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