"Driftwood On The River" is a tribute to the music of the Ozarks and, more particularly, to one of its legends, Jimmy Driftwood. Driftwood is an integral part of American music who carried on the old tradition of using songs to tell stories about the past. A schoolteacher by trade, he wrote thousands of songs, and played them using the guitar made by his grandfather out of a bed head, and the Pickin' Bow (a mouth bow). The music on the album, provided mostly by Sherwin Linton, and wife Pam (who sings a
couple of ballads) is interspersed with dialogue from Driftwood and his wife.
The album opens with a short instrumental piece ("Arkansas Traveler") that
puts you in a relaxed frame of mind ready for what is to come. It is followed by the title track, a country-like tune, where Sherwin Linton's vocals call to mind Johnny Cash. The comparison also comes to mind on "Reverend Mr Black" with its excellent combination of banjo and fiddle, where the vocals sound like "A Thing Called Love."
Possibly Driftwood's most famous song is "The Battle Of New Orleans," which
is included here. This was one of the songs which helped to make Lonnie Donegan famous on his way to becoming the king of skiffle music in Britain. Donegan picked up on a lot of American roots and blues music, covering works from the likes of Driftwood and Leadbelly ("Rock Island Line") and thereby helping to bring them to the notice of a wider listening audience.
The track labeled "Jimmy Sings" has Driftwood singing and playing his pickin' bow. It is immediately followed by Sherwin Linton's very own tribute, "Jimmy Please Play That Ole Pickin' Bow," and Driftwood duly obliges. This track pretty much captures the essence of a lot of what the album is about: mountain music--shades of bluegrass and shades of country--played by people with a love of the mountains.
The album ends in the same sort of vein that it started. The short poem "Along The Road of Time" which is read over a background of Indian flute, precedes a poignant rendition of "Home Sweet Home" which closes the album as it fades out.
"Driftwood On The River" provides a fitting tribute to one of the almost forgotten legends of American music. Although Jimmy Driftwood was not a mainstream musician, he was a prolific songwriter, and many people will know some of his tunes even if they have never heard of the man. "Driftwood On The River" gives everyone a chance to find out a bit more about the real Jimmy Driftwood.
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