James Christian & the Oriskany Strings,
The Train Don't Run Here Anymore
(Catawba, 2006)

James Christian heads the Craig County Boys, a Roanoke-based bluegrass band of regional renown. The five-member Oriskany Strings, also from Virginia, ordinarily perform traditional Appalachian stringband material. For this project, however, Christian signed on to play guitar with the band as it recorded his original songs, which comprise 14 of the 16 cuts.

From the photographs in the sleeve notes, I gather that the Oriskany Strings, not a young band, have been at it for a while, like so many surviving Southeastern traditionally oriented groups that carry on older music styles. They are not to be confused with the more youthful, freewheeling musicians of the current old-time revival; this music goes back to the sensibilities of early country music. In their unabashed nostalgia and unadorned religious faith, Christian and the Oriskanys bring the Carter Family very much to mind.

The performances are hardly polished, but they are deeply felt. If homespun music about Mother and Dad, no-longer-running trains, Jesus, the cabin in the hills, broken hearts and the beauty of the mountain landscape appeals to you, here it is. As for myself, this sort of thing will stop moving me when I, well, stop moving.

by Jerome Clark
21 April 2007

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