Tennessee Senate honors On Top Of Old Smoky

The State Senate of Tennessee has been plenty busy this month sharing congratulations with bluegrass and old time music artists. In addition to this morning’s proclamation honoring The Farm Hands, they issued a resolution earlier in April celebrating the award won by the Great Smoky Mountains Association from the Public Lands Alliance for their album, On Top Of Old Smoky.

The CD is a contemporary recreation of field recordings captured by Joseph S. Hall in the Smoky Mountain region during the mid-20th century. In many ways, Hall was the progenitor for the field of Appalachian Studies, now a hot topic in higher education. He got to know hundreds of natives of this region by living among them, and documenting many aspects of the culture, including the folk music that had been sung in the Smoky Mountains for generations.

Hall also recorded lengthy interviews with the people he visited, capturing their native dialects and mannerisms of speech in addition to the songs and tunes they played. He returned to the area from the early 1940s through the mid-’70s, collecting notes and information. In academic circles, he was in large part responsible for turning the stereotype of ignorant hillbillies on its head, as he demonstrated the wisdom and intellect of the many people he met. A trained linguist, Hall showed the distinctive patterns of these regional dialects and helped preserve them for posterity.

The Great Smoky Mountains Association commissioned a number of popular singers and musicians to perform the songs Hall had collected in 1939 to share with the listening public – and raise the profile of the Association in their minds. They were able to enlist top artists like Dolly Parton, Norman Blake, Tony Trischka, David Holt, Jody Stetcher, and Alice Gerrard to re-record songs from that era, including now familiar numbers like Groundhog, Lost Indian, Man Of Constant Sorrow, Bonaparte’s Retreat, Muleskinner Blues, Black-Eyed Susie, and, of course, On Top Of Old Smoky.

Produced by Ted Olson, a Professor in the Appalachian Studies Department at East Tennessee State University, the the album had previously won Best Tribute Album at the 15th Annual Independent Music Awards in 2017, and was named as one of three recipients of the Innovative Product Award from the Public Lands Alliance.

The full resolution, dated April 3, 2017, can be read by clicking the images below.

The resolution was co-sponsored by Tennessee State Senators Steve Southerland and Doug Overby, and Representatives Tilman Goins, Dale Carr, Bob Ramsey, Art Swann, and David Hawk. It was also signed by Speaker of the Senate, Randy McNally, Speaker of the House of Represetatives, Beth Harwell, and Governor Bill Haslam.

Copies of the CDs can be ordered online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.