Etta Baker – Railroad Bill (2015)

FrontCover1.jpgThe “premier woman Piedmont blues guitar instrumentalist” is a wordy but accurate description of 87-year-old Etta Baker of Morganton, NC. One of the last pickers who was around when the music was first being recorded, Baker’s 83 years of practice is manifested in these wonderful recordings of traditional folk ballads. One highlight follows another, and although “Brown’s Boogie” trips up the album’s gentle flow, the rest is front-porch perfect. This is music you never get tired of listening to. Newcomers to guitar should buy this album, both to marvel at the intricate technique and to amuse themselves with how frustratingly difficult it can be. (by Jim Smith)

Railroad Bill was the folk hero of the turpentine workers in the Red Hills of Alabama. These ‘woods-riders’ bleed the trees on great slash-pine plantations, collect the resin, and manufacture turpentine in crude stills. Living in camps far out in the piney woods, turpentiners were often held to their poorly paid jobs by a system of peonage. Thus the legend of Railroad Bill was born and his ballad traveled out of Alabama into the mountains, becoming a guitar-picker’s showpiece.

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Baker, of Morganton, N.C. was born in 1913 and has been playing guitar since the age of four. She is the premiere Piedmont blues guitar instrumentalist. Her only contemporary was the late Elizabeth Cotton of Carrboro, N.C.

Music Maker master mind Tim Duffy sits in on second guitar on the track “John Henry.” Otherwise, the rest of the CD’s 18 inspiring cuts are comprised of Baker performing solo in or outside her home along with the sounds of Mother Nature live in the background. Some real tasty Piedmont blues here folks that should not be overlooked. -(by Matt Alcott)

Recorded at Etta Baker’s home in Morgantown, North Carolina
on 5/95, 11/95, 2/96 and 6/98

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Etta Baker (guitar)
Timothy Duffy (guitar on 18.)


01. Carolina Breakdown (Traditional) 3.12
02. Railroad Bill (Traditional) 2.43
03. I Get The Blues When It Rains (Johnson) 3.04
04. Careless Love (Traditional) 3.26
05. Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down (Traditional) 2.38
06. Sunny Tennesse (Baker) 1.48
07. Mint Julep (Traditional) 3.09
08. Browns Boogie (Traditional) 2.34
09. Lonesome Road Blues (Traditional) 2.15
10. Goodbye Booze (Traditional) 2.00
11. Nobody’s Business (Traditional) 1.54
12. One-Dime Blues (Traditional) 1.43
13. Going Down The Road Feeling Bad (Traditional) 2.38
14. Candyman (Traditional) 2.23
15. Miss A Little Miss (Baker) 2.12
16. Baby Let Me Lay It On You (Traditional) 2.52
17. Chilly Winds (Traditional) 2.22
18. John Henry (Traditional) 3.17
19. Cripple Creek (Traditional) 1.57




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Etta Baker (March 31, 1913 – September 23, 2006)