“A seasoned performer, Bobby Horton is a multi-instrumentalist, a composer, producer, and music historian. For more than 30 years he has traveled throughout The United States and Canada performing with the musical-comedy group Three On A String. He has also produced and performed music for ten Ken Burns films, including ‘The Civil War’, ‘Baseball’, and ‘Mark Twain’, two films for the A & E Network, plus sixteen films for The National Park Service. His series of recordings of authentic “period” music has been acclaimed by historical organizations and publications throughout America and Europe.”
In 2002, I had the opportunity to arrange, perform, and record music for the soundtrack of The Visitor Center film at The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Headquarters in Gatlinburg, TN. After the new film was in place, people were inquiring about a soundtrack recording with the music they had just heard. The good folks at the park asked me to produce such a soundtrack. Since the film is only eighteen minutes long, I researched tunes of the mountain folk who have inhabited these beautiful mountains for generations. I also composed a few tunes that express my love of The Smoky Mountains and the impressions the many wonderful vistas and valleys have made on me and my family over the years. Like all of my other recordings, I did all the arranging, performing (with the exception of my daughter, Rachel, “ooohing” in the first cut), and recording of this music and record here in my home production studio – hence the “Homespun” in the title.
The six songs I recorded for the film are included in this CD. “Ester” is an old folk hymn written by J. S. Terry in 1869. It has been a favorite for mountain people as it is found in many editions of shape-note hymn books used by churches in the area. Mountain people have been dancing to “Sally in the Garden” since the 1800’s. “Cold, Frosty Morning”, and “The Red Haired Boy” are wonderful fiddle tunes that are often heard in this part of the world. “Villulia” is another hymn tune found in regional shape-note song books. It was written in the 19th century by the great sacred song composer, J. M. Day to lyrics by John Newton. The last tune from the film presented here is a very popular mountain fiddle tune with Irish roots called “Whiskey Before Breakfast”.
To expand the CD program I recorded several traditional songs that have been heard in the hills and hollows since the 1800’s. Carl Sandburg called “Turkey in the Straw” the “classical American tune.” It is presented here with instruments most often played in the mountains – mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bass with vocal. As settlers from Scotland and Ireland came to the mountains, they often brought their tunes with them. In a medley, two such tunes are presented – “The Foggy, Foggy Dew” and “The Red Haired Boy” (which is also known as “The Little Beggar Man”). The melancholy yet hopeful song “The Last Rose of Summer” was imported into the mountains from Ireland and England in the 19th century and has always been a favorite of the people there. When the Irish and Scots first came into the mountains, there was a good relationship between the Cherokee Indian people and the new citizens. To illustrate this point, I wrote a tune based on traditional Cherokee melodies called “The Trail of Tears” and combine it in a medley with a much beloved Turlough O’Carolyn tune known as “O’Carolyn’s Farewell to Music”. One of my favorite tunes presented here is a song found in many mountain shaped-note hymn books entitled “Do Not I love Thee, O! My Lord”. This instrumental arrangement is based on the wonderful vocal work of Dr. Milburn Price of Samford University. Other mountain classics included here are “Shady Grove”, “Cluck Old Hen”, “Sourwood Mountain”, and the very popular mountain hymn tune called “Salutation”.
Because the Smoky Mountains are so inspiring, I wrote several tunes to express my feelings regarding the many mountain peaks, the many beautiful forest trails, and the tranquility of the valleys and hollows that always seem to be found around the next turn in the road. The panoramic views one gets from atop the higher elevations were the inspiration for the opening piece, “The Mystery and Majesty of the Mountains”, and “The High Mountains”.
The memory of a forest trail Lynda and I took as newlyweds is the basis for “A Walk In the Forest”. The memory of a cool, quiet mountain path not far from Clingman’s Dome resulted in “Solitude”. “Mountain Air” is a banjo / fiddle tune I made up to express the joy and energy one feels when visiting this wonderful part of the world.