Most everyone who enjoys bluegrass and old time mandolin is familiar with Mike Compton, from his long career with The Nashville Bluegrass Band or The John Hartford String Band, or perhaps his appearance in the Coen Brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou film. Or from his solo work, or his duo shows with Joe Newberry, or his many classes at instructional camps around the country, and his own Monroe Mandolin Camp.
And absolutely every aficionado of flatpicking guitar knows the work of Norman Blake, one of the reigning legends in his field who has been performing since the early 1950s. He shares icon status with giants like Doc Watson and Clarence White in the development of the modern flatpicking style, and was a chief influence on all of today’s top bluegrass guitarists.
But do you know the music of Narmour & Smith, a popular duo in the deep south during the 1920 and ’30s. Mike and Norman want to make sure that you do, and have created a new recording of their music to share with contemporary audiences.
Gallop To Georgia features 16 tracks taken from the 48 sides that Narmour & Smith recorded for the Okeh and Bluebird labels, including their one most widely known number, Carroll County Blues. Mike and Norman recreate those tunes, working to maintain the sound and the style of the originals.
Fiddler William Narmour and guitarist Shellie Smith lived into the 1960s, but to date only dedicated archivists and serious students of pre-bluegrass roots music know much about their repertoire. Compton had heard their music growing up in Mississippi, which is where the duo were based back in the day. Mike recalls that his grandfather and his contemporaries played these tunes when he was a child, and he got the idea of making an album of the Narmour & Smith sound.
Despite being close friends, and having performed and recorded together many times, Compton and Blake had not previously collaborated on a project like this before they met in Ft Payne, AL to cut these tracks.
Mike sums up his vision for this album in the liner notes…
“The point of it is simple. That being to retell some of the old stories told almost 100 years ago, to show that things were done as well and as passionately back then as they are now, that the old songs are still valid and alive in us yet and have much to say.”
This video of the title track gives a good taste of the flavor of Gallop To Georgia.
Gallop To Georgia is available now wherever you stream or download music online, and on CD from Compton’s web site.
Mike has also created a mandolin book with transcriptions for what he played, in both tablature and standard notation. It is also offered for sale online, with a special package price for the book and CD together.