If you are just learning of the South Carolina Broadcasters, you are meeting them at a good time. This being their fifth album, they are at the peak of their powers, and still climbing. In spite of their name, they are based in Surry County, North Carolina, which along with neighboring Galax, Virginia, and surrounding areas is ground zero for much of the old-time and bluegrass music that exists today.
Ivy Sheppard honed her craft of fiddling and banjo and guitar picking while performing with the renowned Roan Mountain Hilltoppers under the tutelage of the late Bill Birchfield of East Tennessee. (Bill died as this album was being made.) The fiddle Ivy plays here was made by Bill using only a pocket knife and a piece of glass.
Andy Edmonds is an expert performer on anything with strings, and was a band mate and collaborator of famous Surry County old-time fiddler Benton Flippen during the last decade of the elder icon’s life.
David Sheppard is a master luthier capable of building or repairing practically any acoustic instrument. He plays the driving rhythm, sometimes on his self-built guitar (he calls it the Recording King Ray Whitley model that Gibson should have made), and sings lead with a powerful clarion voice that cuts a clear path for a song. Ivy and Andy also sing lead when a song calls for it, but when all three perform their unique take on harmony they turn into a goose-bump generator that can make you re-live the heart-ripping emotion at the source of a song. It’s not quite bluegrass with the two-finger banjo and old-time rhythms, and it is not strictly old-time with the powerful three-part harmonies, but it is Old Timey in a way that bridges the two worlds and yet stands alone. Even original songs such as Andy’s “The Rambler’s Life,” written on the day his second child was born, sound as if they were a hundred years in the making. The Broadcasters’ music would be right at home on late 1930s Bluebird 78 RPM shellac records.
The songs come from the Broadcasters’ strong connection to the old-time and bluegrass pioneers. This would include names like Troy Brammer, Benton Flippen, Bill Birchfield, and Cullen Galyean. There is also Ivy’s passionately curated music collection and the sounds she has heard from the library and archives of WPAQ Mount Airy – “The Voice Of The Blue Ridge” — where she works as a DJ on a popular afternoon show. WPAQ is also the place where the Broadcasters have resurrected the art of the daily musical radio show with their 15-minute program that airs four times a week. They are legitimate broadcasters.
Play this record and be transported to a time and place when music was real, from the heart, recorded on one microphone in one take, and unmolested by the business of music. The South Carolina Broadcasters still live there.