Benton Flippen & The Smokey Valley Boys - 270 Haystack Rd

Benton Flippen & The Smokey Valley Boys - 270 Haystack Rd

Music Maker Foundation

Benton Flippen is an institution in Surry County, N.C., and in the greater world of old-time music. He is a member in good standing of the true vine. Having fiddled for more than six decades and lived for nine, he was once a youngster in the membership of legendary Surry County fiddlers. Now he is the grand patriarch and, as such, is revered. There is little new here, but that is indeed the point.

The band is typical of a 1960s Surry County old-time band with two guitars, mandolin, banjo (either clawhammer or three-finger-style), all supporting the fiddle lead.That is the definition of an old-time band in those parts. Mr. Flippen still yields his surgical skills with the bow. His intonation is better than most and he’s able to drive a tune better than fiddlers half his age. The program includes twenty tested and true tunes. “Cacklin’ Hen,” “Logan County Blues,” “Cider” (a sweet fiddle/banjo duet), and “Sugar Hill” are all standards to the region. Flippen’s sure handedness on “Sunny Home In Dixie,” a real fiddle workout, sounds better than any version out there today.

The two guitars lay down a solid base for the band. The banjo shadows the fiddle, sliding with it and clucking the melodic highlights. Kevin Fore and Andy Edmonds share banjo duties. The mandolin, played by Wesley Clifton, grandson of the esteemed Vernon Clifton of the Camp Creek Boys, is strummed in a chunky rhythmic pattern unlike anything in bluegrass, just as his grandfather had done.

Andy Edmonds (on banjo) and Flippen flat out burn an old-time version of “Flop Eared Mule” with three-finger banjo and fiddle, backed by the band. If you are interested in old-time fiddling, old-time band sounds, or just great mountain music, don’t miss this release. It is amazing how good Benton Flippen is at nearly 90. (Music Maker Relief Foundation, 224 W Corbin St., Hillsborough, NC 27278, RCB