Who can forget the photograph of Blind Alfred Reed and Aunt Rosie Reed, sitting down to Christmas dinner in their cabin in West Virginia? Alfred seems to be eating something and Rosie seems to be watching him with an attitude of concern. Her plate is empty.
Alfred died soon after - of starvation, the story goes - in 1956.
How can a poor man stand such times and live? Reed lived and worked during the Great Depression, and he wrote some of the greatest people s songs of that era. He was a popular entertainer, but a man of deep feeling. He didn t make money. From the perspective of modern times, it s a miracle he was recorded at all. Thanks to the new Lost City Ramblers, his unique songs were revived for modern audiences in the 60s, where I first heard of him. Always Lift Him Up and Never Knock Him Down would make an interesting national anthem: kindness and empathy over bombs and flags.
Now, for the first time, we can listen to the songs of Alfred Reed interpreted by singers and musicians from his home state of West Virginia. What an imagination he had, what insight, what clarity. How is it that these wonderful songs have laid fallow for so long? Yet how fresh and timely they are, and that s the mark of a great artist. Shall I say a great American? Get to know him. Accept Blind Alfred Reed into your life! You must unload! -- Ry Cooder.
Produced by Don Dixon, Michael Lipton and Tim O'Brien.
Features performances by: Tim O'Brien, Kathy Mattea, Little Jimmy Dickens, Connie Smith, Asleep at the Wheel, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas, and more.