Roscoe Holcomb, An Untamed Sense of Control

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
One of the great finds of the folk revival.

One of the great finds of the folk revival, Holcomb recorded for the first time in 1959; Bob Dylan's apt description of his style provides this set's title. The east Kentucky banjo man performed traditional country songs in a tradition-plus manner that played his tense, bristly high tenor off against an irregularly percussive, two-finger banjo style. (He also adapted blues and poppish material, and played slide guitar, harmonica and fiddle.) Burry, reedy performances like “Little Maggie,” “I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Milk Cow Blues” are both piercing and ghostly, with a bigger sound than you've likely ever heard coming from one voice and/or instrument.