Roscoe Holcomb (1911-1981)
I listen to this man and I feel the weight of life and eternity. It's like hearing the wind across a lake or an airy whistle through a cave. Before you read on, stop now and listen to the clip below!
In the summer of 1959, John Cohen, a member of the aspiring folk-music revivalist group the "New Lost City Ramblers", traveled down from New York City to find old time songs to add to his group's musical repertoire and experience first-hand the regional depression that Eastern Kentucky was going through, despite the general prosperity experienced in the rest of the nation at the time. Wandering out on the side roads off the highways in the Cumberland Mountains, he asked local folks if there was anyone around who played music. After listening to Roscoe sing "Across the Rocky Mountains" at his home in Daisy on a June afternoon, John later recalled,
"My hair stood up on end, I couldn't tell whether I was hearing something ancient, like a Gregorian Chant, or something very contemporary and avant-garde. It was the most moving, touching, dynamic, powerful song I'd ever experienced . . . not the song itself but they way he sang it was just astounding. And I said, 'Can I come back and hear you some more?'" from "John Cohen in Eastern Kentucky" by Scott Matthews
After John Cohen filmed and released his documentary about Roscoe The High Lonesome Sound (1963), Holcomb became a nationally-known musician. He was invited to folk festivals across the country, produced albums and was credited by many as their own inspiration. Bob Dylan said of him, " He has a certain untamed sense of control, which makes him one of the best." from Tom Netherland's site, see below.
still of Roscoe on Pete Seeger's TV show "Rainbow Quest" (1966)
"Roscoe Holcomb" by Tom Netherland, Musical Traditions Internet Magazine <http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/holcombe.htm>.
Roscoe's recordings: "The High Lonsome Sound"Smithsonian Folkways <http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2413>.