Saturday, March 28, 2009

Two Very Different Takes on West Virginia Music

When in West Virginia, write blog entries about West Virginia....

This entry is on two very different types of West Virginia music and the very different people who play them. The first type is along the lines of what you would expect, accoustic music played by an older couple who have played old time music all their lives. The second type is not what you would expect, music that could loosely be called rockabilly played by someone Appalshop described as "Elvis in Sid Vicious’s body with a little Frank Sinatra thrown in".

This morning, my dad showed me an article from a 2004 edition of Goldenseal magazine about Lester and Linda McCumbers, a couple from Calhoun County, West Virginia. The McCumbers, now in their 80s, both grew up during the depression when families used music played in the home as both entertainment and as an escape from the daily grind a hard life. As the McCumbers grew older, they continued to play and sing. Now the McCumbers are considered one of the few remaining living links to the days of real old time music. The Goldenseal article is not available online, but a 2003 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about the couple is available here, complete with soundclips of them performing.

Hasil (pronounced "Hassle") Adkins was born sometime in the 1930s in Boone County, West Virginia. Sometime in the 1950s, he started recording, mostly as a one man band. Adkins claimed he wrote over 7,000 songs during his life. Among those songs were "Blue Star", "The Hunch" (which supposedly has an accompanying dance which mimmicks sex), "Chicken Walk", "No More Hot Dogs" and "She Said", which was covered by the Cramps. Most of the songs were either ruthless rockers or slow, rough edged country ballads. For 50 years or so, Adkins made it through life banging out gigs and being a cult hero. Then, Adkins died in April 2005 ten days after being intentionally run down a teenager on an ATV.

I could write more on Adkins, but I think it's best you witness him for yourself. Start by listening to the cuts included on the Myspace page dedicated to him here. Then, go on to read this interview first published in Planet magazine in 1995. At the bottom of that page is a link to information about how Adkins got caught in a war of words between Village Voice writer Howard Hampton and Sting. The official Hasil Adkins website is here and, finally, here is information from the Appalshop website on the documentary Appalshop produced on Adkins entitled The Wild World of Hasil Adkins.

After reading all that information, it probably won't surprise you to learn Adkins once released an album dedicated to the chicken...

1 comment:

  1. "If Sting is the disease, then Hasil Adkins is the cure."

    Kind of harsh, but my God Sting's response has got to be the most bitter, overwrought, smug (and badly written, in a "I'm self-righteously raging against the machine even though I'm a multimillionaire" kind of way) piece of dickwaddery I've ever read. Double-edged sword, maybe: I have the feeling his music started to suck right around the time he began to mellow out.