THE McCORMICK BROTHERS
SOMEWHERE IN TIME
It was 1954 when I first heard a McCormick Brothers recording, “Red Hen Boogie,” a Louvin Brothers creation that the McCormicks masterfully brought to life. Soon, an instrumental titled “The Mad Banjo” hit the market, and I was hooked. The tune received considerable airplay in my home turf of northern Virginia; one local DJ even adopted it as his show theme. In those days, the McCormick Brothers consisted of Kelly (mandolin), Lloyd (guitar), and Haskell (banjo), and over the next decade they continued to release strong titles for the Hickory label. Younger brother, William, joined as bass player and, even later, another brother, Gerald, joined.
In their heyday, the McCormick Brothers were a force to be reckoned with. Their songs were topnotch, but many folks focused on their instrumentals featuring the brilliant banjo work of Haskell. By the end of the 1950s, rock’n’roll was seriously impacting traditional music. Still, the McCormicks survived for many years hosting a popular and heavily attended weekly square dance in Gallatin, Tenn. After several attempts at releasing LPs in the 1960s, their recording career began to wind down, and they eventually faded into undeserved obscurity—all except Haskell, who worked a tour with Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass.
Sadly, band pioneers Lloyd and Kelly have passed away. But, now, Haskell and his younger brothers William and Gerald have revitalized the band, releasing this excellent album. Second generation family members show up, and some guests appear, too, most notably Michael Cleveland on fiddle and mandolin.
Here we have the updated McCormick sound. The set of 17 titles (and one bonus track) opens with a new tune (at least to me) “Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You,” one of the set’s highlights. There are also fine versions of the gospel favorite “Camping In Canaan’s Land,” a banjo/fiddle duet, “Old Joe Clark,” and “You Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You,” another tune I’d not heard. The boys offer a pleasing mix of new pieces and familiar ones, all powerful performances including a fine new version of “Red Hen Boogie.” It’s great to have the McCormick Brothers back. Recommended. (Stonewall Records, 110 River Rd., Hendersonville, TN 37075, www.stonewallrecords.com.) WVS