30 years ago “do it yourself” recording was almost unheard of. Multi-track studios were complex and expensive, not accessible to most unsigned artists. And once the album was finished and pressed, it was impossible to get the record on the radio and distributed to stores without label support. Woody Simmons was among the first wave of talented feminist singer/songwriters who, unable to find a home with the major labels of the day, scraped together their own money, learned to operate recording equipment, and produced their own records. By the late 1970s, there was such a groundswell of independent women musicians and an audience hungry for what they offered, that networks of record distributors, radio programmers, print media, music festivals and concert promoters sprang up to support them. Women’s bookstores added record racks and, noticing the healthy sales, the chain stores started to stock Woody’s LPs along with those of Holly Near, Cris Williamson, Ferron, Margie Adam, Meg Christian, etc. A decade later, The Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman would cite some of those mentioned above as their influences and by the late 1980s, the major labels were ready to routinely release records by women who wrote their own songs, played a variety of instruments, produced their own records and controlled their careers. 30 years after Woody found a way to record and release her first record, it is commonplace for independent musicians of all stripes to record their music at home onto their computers and to distribute it world wide on the internet.
Oregon Mountains was first released in 1977 to rave reviews. Primarily of bluegrass influence, the album also contains some of Simmons' jazz, folk and pop inflected music as well as two impressive frailing banjo instrumentals. “Banjo Raga” features the seemingly unlikely marriage of Indian melodies that one might hear played on sitar paired with a more familiar sounding western hoe down. “Suite For Wings” is an elegant, breathtaking piece of work that starts slowly and builds to a dramatic, hair-raising conclusion. Woody’s banjo compositions were years ahead of their time and foreshadowed the work done in later years by Bela Fleck, Tony Trishka, Scott Vestal and the like. In 1988, FRETS Magazine named Oregon Mountains one of 12 landmark banjo albums, chosen "to highlight banjo albums that influenced the evolution of the instrument in other directions".
The title song became a favorite among Woody’s fans well before the album was recorded, prompting Simmons to invite a large contingent of women to sing on the album. Featured in this group are Rhiannon (Alive!, Voicestra), other members of Alive!, Nancy Vogl, (who also toured with Woody in 1978), and members of the Berkeley Women's Music Collective.
"Recorded in San Francisco in 1977, this is the voice of a mature, thoughtful songwriter and singer. ‘Can't Say Why’ is a wonderful love song, a ‘God knows how that happened, thank God it did’ spot-on flight of joy. ‘Feather in the Wind’ and ‘Oregon Mountains’ are two sides of the same coin: the delirious rootlessness of finding new ways to live and the comfort of being attached to a naturally beautiful place. ‘Goin' Down South’ is a fun, flat-out romp. All throughout, Simmons' picking is accomplished and interesting." - Jeff Beresford-Howe, Clean Sheets
The Boston Globe called Ms. Simmons "... an accomplished musician and composer with...
a wealth of innovative musical ideas..."
And The Twin City Reader found Woody "...a wonder woman tour de force."