Blind Alfred Reed, Blind Alfred Reed (1927-1929)

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Stark, simple, stirring fiddle tunes.

This Virginia fiddler, considered archaic even in his day, was unusual because he sang and played simultaneously (accompanied usually by his son Arville on guitar). His stark, simple and straightforward fiddle style cut through the air like a hot knife through butter, while his sturdy baritone voice was twang-free and sometimes bordered on operatic. Though he was a churchgoing man who sang many familiar religious songs he also wrote much of his own material, especially topical fare — his Depression plaint "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live," since revived by Ry Cooder, the Del-Lords, and, most recently, by Bruce Springsteen at the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, is a classic.