Originally released on Vanguard in 1963 and 1964, respectively the LPs see two previously unissued recordings added. An alternate version of ‘Cotton Mill Girl’ is added to the first album with ‘Who’s Going To Shoe (Them Pretty Little Feet)’ the second. Now issued in the UK on one CD by Ace records that over the years have kept the label in the frame via a host of product from Joan Baez, Doc Watson and Ian & Sylvia Tyson plus others.
The 1960s folk revival spawned a number of acts who went on to become commercially, successful. Judy Collins who had already gained a foothold in the recording business, Baez, Buffy Sainte Marie, Peggy Seeger and Odetta among others but Hedy’s style lay more in the Jean Ritchie mode. In it’s plaintive arrangements of only her voice and own accompanying banjo. Even though West cites her performances as been influenced by actors her music and choice of songs were heavily steeped in the rural environment she was raised, her parents were sharecroppers. People who when it came to work knew more than more than any other what back breaking work was, and through their hardships any joy they gained outside their labours was embraced with heart, body and soul. Her father, Don West was also a poet.
The family home, after Klu Klux Klan cross-burning warnings was razed to the ground in 1961. By which time she was living in and studying music and drama in New York. Meeting Pete Seeger who her parents had sponsored to perform in Atlanta, Georgia a decade early was someone she reacquainted herself with whilst there and as a result she was asked to open at Greenwich Village’s Village Gate for two weeks. Picked up by the Vanguard label West was soon recording, appear at the Newport Folk Festival and also visit Europe.
As for the music, West’s relaxed natural singing voice lends much to the songs of the mountains. Southern folk ballads, western songs, gospel and she also does credit to a Negro song or two. As in the jaunty ‘Run, Slave, Run’ and ‘Don’t Go Down That Lonesome Road’ that fit in perfectly alongside tales of miners killed underground, moonshiners (‘Moonshiner’s Lament’); her finale, the bonus track accepted is a moving version of the much recorded ‘Father Along’. And, yes there is her ‘hit’ ‘500 Miles’; that Bobby Bare later recorded it during his formative days as a folk country act. File under ‘exceptional value’; for not only is the music great but Kent Hunt's liner notes (plus the originals) are a great read.
HEDY WEST —HEDY WEST / VOLUME 2 (Vanguard)
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