(Multicultural Media, CD)
Hot on the heels of Vermont Kitchen Tunks and Parlor Songs -- a release of field recordings collected around the state in the '80s -- central Vermont cultural archaeologist, musician and music lover Mark Greenberg offers up another slice of Green Mountain heart and soul.
This time around, Greenberg has compiled songs from Vermont cowboys Don Fields & His Pony Boys. Local heroes during the 1930s and '40s, Waterbury's Pony Boys were a Western swing and country dance band in the tradition of Bob Wills. Fields himself was the first musician played on WDEV, not to mention one of the station's first announcers.
Acting on a tip from WDEV owner Ken Squier, Greenberg got his hands on the 1941 recordings (in the shape of flimsy, red and yellow plastic 78 rpm records) from the Metayer estate, subsequently rescuing an important piece of Vermont musical history. In their heyday, The Pony Boys were a pretty hot band; though no Stephane Grappelli, Fields could fiddle a mean line, and also doubled on Dixieland sax.
The material on the CD consists of live radio recordings captured in 1941 on a Wilcox-Gray record-cutting machine owned (and, thankfully, well-operated) by radio fan Ernest Metayer of Waterbury Center. In addition to these broadcasts, the release features a 1983 session recorded by Greenberg shortly before Fields' death. Playing on the final recording were ex-Pony Boys Lois and Smokey Carey. It's safe to say that many people in the area still remember Smokey tearing it up on ragtime tenor banjo at Shakey's Pizza Parlor on Williston Road in the '70s.
You can hear the line of succession reaching from Don Fields' good-time music to modern Vermont favorites such as Coco & the Lonesome Road Band, Little Joyce & the Sensations, Rick Norcross & the Nashfull Ramblers and The Starline Rhythm Boys. So it's not surprising that this "new "Pony Boys release was the top-selling title at both Buch Spieler Music in Montpelier and Exile on Main Street in Barre the week before Christmas.
Apparently a lot of nostalgic Pony Boy fans remain in and around Washington County, and all of them owe thanks to Mark Greenberg for his vision and energy. By releasing this long-lost treasure, he's once again done Vermont music a great service.