Roscoe Holcomb: On Top of Old Smoky (1961)
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Published on Jun 19, 2012
Roscoe Holcomb sings "On Top of Old Smoky," joined by John Cohen on guitar, at Alan Lomax's West Third Street apartment in New York City. From the film "Ballads, Blues, and Bluegrass," directed by Lomax (who's holding the mic), shot by George Pickow, with sound by Jean Ritchie (who's seen at the beginning with Ramblin' Jack Elliott), and edited by Anna Lomax Wood.
About "Ballads, Blues, and Bluegrass":
In the early 1960s, when Greenwich Village was bursting with a folk-music revival, an organization called the Friends of Old Time Music (founded by Ralph Rinzler, Izzy Young, and John Cohen) made it their mission to introduce New York City audiences to some of the era's best folk, blues, and bluegrass performers. After the first two F.O.T.M. concerts in early 1961 (featuring Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley, and Doc Watson), Alan Lomax invited the artists and a who's who of the folk revival back to his West Third Street apartment for an impromptu song-swap.
Filming was arranged on the fly, but a raw, many-layered evocation of the art and attitude of the period emerges from the footage, with some of the biggest names of the era, old-timers and revivalists alike: Holcomb, Ashley, Watson, Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Jean Ritchie, Ernie Marrs, Peter LaFarge, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, the Greenbriar Boys, and the New Lost City Ramblers. The footage of Doc Watson is his first known film appearance.
"Ballads, Blues, and Bluegrass" is a remarkable portrait of a brief but fabled era that was widely documented in recordings but all too under-represented in moving image. It received its world premiere at the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival, over 50 years after it was shot; a DVD was released by Media-Generation (http://media-generation.net/) to coincide with the premiere. It includes interviews with cinematographer George Pickow and the New Lost City Ramblers' John Cohen, reflecting on the film in 2010.
View the trailer here:
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