Like the previous reviewer, I originally purchased the three Hedy West Topic albums in the Sixties, whilst a teenager, and they remain some of my favourite albums in the old time music genre and from the folk revival of that period. I was also lucky enough to see her performing 'live' at the Folk Union One, Bluebell Inn, Hull (The Watersons old folk club) in the mid-1960s and she was every bit as breathtaking a performer on stage too. I reviewed this CD reissue set for R2 (Rock N Reel) magazine, back in 2011, and that review is here:
Ballads And Songs From The Appalachians
There's a savagery to such ancient ballads as `Beaulampkin' (Child 93) that's quite disturbing to modern sensibilities. Beaulampkin, a mason, builds a castle, is not paid, in revenge murders the wife and baby of the man who cheats him, and is subsequently hanged. Almost as shocking is his wife trying to save her life by proffering her elder daughter's hand in marriage. That such songs survived relocation to the New World is unsurprising given our human fascination with these dark tales and the lawless nature of America in the 18th and 19th century.
The late Hedy West had a voice eminently suited to this kind of material, a harsh tonality (not unlike Hazel Dickens or Rosalie Sorrels) that spoke of hard times and struggle. Her banjo and guitar provided exemplary accompaniment to her vocals (occasionally, as on `The Cruel Mother', she sang acapella). This new 2-CD collection assembles all three of her Topic Records albums, made between 1965-67: `Old Times & Hard Times', `Pretty Saro' and `Ballads'.
Ultimately, it's invidious to choose one song over another as everything here is of a very high standard indeed but `Love Henry', `Fair Rosamund' and `The Wife Of Usher's Well' are particularly outstanding.