Hillary Klug
30. August 2023 By Walter Price 0


Hillary Klug Yew Piney Mountain is available on Hillary Klug LP, Deezer, Tidal

Hillary Klug

by Walter Price

Traditional folk music is familiar to most but I think many would have quite the time trying to name a song they’ve heard many times over the years. Perhaps in films, barn dances, honky-tonks, performed by a busker, or what have you. And, please, knowing the historied origin stories behind these passed-along old-timers is an even more impossible task. But like discovering the roots of a fairytale or nursery rhyme, surprises are around every corner.

Case in point, one recent rainy afternoon I had Hillary Klug’s 2018 version of “Yew Piney Mountain” stuck in my noggin. A song full of respect and beauty given by Klug to the song’s Appalachian roots, but a song that also got me thinking about where the other 16 tracks on the self-titled LP came from. So, a long enjoyable rabbit hole ensued.

According to Wiki, the backstory of the before-mentioned deep-cut is rumored as, “Yew Piney Mountain” is part of the canonical Appalachian music tradition which has been highly influential in American fiddle tradition generally, including its old-time fiddle and bluegrass fiddle branches. According to Alan Jabbour at the Digital Library of Appalachia, the tune was called “Blackberry Blossom” until that title was taken over by a different tune. The earlier “Blackberry Blossom”, as played by Sanford Kelly from Morgan County, is now represented by the tune “Yew Piney Mountain”.

Another familiar tune, “Bonaparte’s March“, is chronicled by chabad.org, “This march is remarkable for its joyous, rhythmic character. It was played in 1812 by the armies of Napoleon when they crossed the border near Prussia in their invasion of Russia. The Alter Rebbe had left his native town of Liadi when the armies of the enemy were approaching. He asked that the march be sung for him and, after a moment’s contemplation, designated the march as a song of victory.”

Another favorite from Klug’s LP, “Wolves a-Howlin” has its history documented by tunearch.org, “The tune has wide dissemination among deep South and Midwest fiddlers. Tom Rankin and Gary Stanton (notes to “Great Big Yam Potatoes”) indicate it was popular in the “Old Southwest” or the states of Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Richard “Dink” Goforth, a Missouri fiddler and father of Gene Goforth (1921-2002) played “Wolves a Howlin’” and another tune called “The Howlin’ Wolves,” that was nearly the same. “His Dad swore up and down (that it) was different,” writes John Hartford (2001), “but Gene never could separate the two.” “Wolves…” was specialty tune of Tuscallosa fiddler Monkey Brown (1897 1972) who was active in Alabama contest fiddling in the 1920’s and 30’s. It was a common tune in western Alabama, especially the Tombigbee Warrior region (Cauthen). The tune was one of several old time fiddle pieces listed in a 1925 University of Alabama master’s thesis by S.M. Taylor entitled “A Preliminary Survey of Folk Lore in Alabama.

“Robert Fleder (1971) remarks that “Wolves Howlin'” has been collected in Mississippi and Oklahoma as well as Alabama, “but there is no reason to suspect that it is not indigenous to the Alabama-Mississippi region.” Mississippi fiddler John Brown, of Tishomingo County, was recorded for the Library of Congress by Herbert Halpert in 1939 playing the tune in GDgd tuning. He was over age 80 at the time. The Striping Brothers, featuring the fiddling of Charlie Stripling (1896-1966) originally from Pickens Co., northeast Alabama, recorded it commercially in 1929, traveling with his guitar-playing brother Ira (b. 1898) to studios in Chicago. Charlie learned to fiddle as a teenager, mentored by a neighbor, “Uncle Plez” Pleasant C. Carroll (1850-1930), from whom it is thought he learned “Wolves a Howling.”

Not enough room on these pages to detail the full deep dive I took on Hilary Klug’s phenomenal album, but if you find yourself with a rare few moments of free time, listen to the 17-track set and get to Googling. It’s time well spent.

You can stream the deep-cut track that got me started on my the-more-I-know journey, here at the GTC.

HILLARY KLUG Yew Piney Mountain

Artist photo by Darwin Alberto // Artwork via Spotify // Quotes are credited via links in the article

Hillary Klug LP Credits (Discogs)

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