West Virginia old-time music mainstays David O’Dell and Pete Kosky — The MacAbre Brothers — have put together a new recording with an even dozen murder ballads. Three of these, John Hardy, Jay Legg and the Banks of Old Guyan, come from West Virginia.
These guys are familiar to fans of West Virginia music, having won their share of ribbons at the Vandalia Gathering, and having taught at Augusta and Allegheny Echoes.
O’Dell plays banjo on most of the selections, and Kosky guitar. Kosky plays the five string on “Pretty Polly.” Here his clean style underscores his heartfelt singing.
Odell has a bouncy, rhythmic touch on banjo, with chord accents, as on “Wild Bill Jones” and “Devil and Farmer’s Wife.”
The duo’s “Roving Gambler” echoes the Morris Brothers. O’Dell’s unaccompanied ballad “The Banks of Old Guyan” comes from the late Aunt Jenny Wilson of Logan County.
A project like this would make a good topic for an old-time music class at Augusta or Allegheny Echoes. You can’t hear enough singing in the old music. Lots of variety here, and while the material is treated with the utmost respect, nobody takes things too seriously.
Valentine’s Day is not too far off. Nothing says “I love you” like a CD of traditional murder ballads.
Available for $15 from David O’Dell at P.O. Box 302, Glenville, 26351, or online at roanerecords.bandcamp.com.