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Blind Alfred Reed gets concert tribute treatment

Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, September 19, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Blind Alfred Reed was not all that well known a musician. He doubled as a preacher, while playing on the streets of West Virginia trying to make ends meet. But long after he died in 1956 at 75, Reed's legacy lives on.

A tribute disc, "Always Lift Him Up a Tribute to Blind Alfred Reed," came out late last year featuring a slew of West Virginia artists like Kathy Mattea and Tim O'Brien playing 19 songs penned by Reed.

And the tribute came alive big time during a special one-off concert as part of the Americana Music Association's annual festivities.

Tim O'Brien was the host and band leader of the lunch-time show and did a great job in educating those attending the show about the life and times of Reed. The blind singer was one of the artists, along with Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family, who recorded at the famous Bristol Sessions in 1927, widely considered the birth of country music.

But not only was O'Brien educational in his approach, but the songs themselves came alive throughout. O'Brien's playing on mandolin was stellar as usual.

Mattea showed up with her smoky voice breathing life into the songs. Connie Smith lent her voice as well, and the country star has lost none of her luster, aging ever so gracefully - well actually seemingly not at all.

This was a special show, one which unfortunately seems unlikely to be replicated elsewhere. That's too bad because it was such a special occasion to honor one of West Virginia's finest musicians, who is way too under the radar screen.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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