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Buell Kazee: Sings and Plays

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Album Review

Originally recorded in 1958 for the Folkways label, Sings and Plays is now available on CD and cassette on a made-to-order basis, ordered directly from the Smithsonian label website. These 18 sides include as much oral history as they do fine banjo frailing. Kazee's expert clawhammer playing is the reason this collection remains essential for fans of the archaic performance style. His stories and impromptu banjo lessons are likewise worthwhile. Kazee's brittle singing voice, on the other hand, may require some getting used to for unprepared listeners. But the old familiar tales of "John Hardy" and "Darling Corey" sound like today's breaking news as this Kentucky minister performs them. This is an exceptional collection that chronicles an age of American musical tradition (and spirit) long since lost to history and third-generation imitations. Photocopies of the album's original notes and lyric sheet are included with each order.


Born: 29 August 1900 in Burton Fork, KY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Buell Kazee was a minister who played banjo and sang the ancient songs of his beloved Kentucky mountains during the 1920s. Considered one of the very best folk singers in U.S. history, he was a master of the high, "lonesome" singing style of the Appalachian balladeer. Kazee was born in the foothill town of Burton Fork, KY, and learned most of his songs from his family. He began picking banjo at age five and often played during local gatherings. He prepared for the clergy even as a teen and after...
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