Dirty Linen (4-5/01, p.77) - "...Excellent tunes..."
The Mysterious Redbirds: James Reams (vocals, guitar); Tom Paley (vocals, banjo); Bill Christopherson (vocals, fiddle).
Includes liner notes by Chris Seymour.
The Mysterious Redbirds were a sometime/part-time group made up of ex-New Lost City Ramblers' member Tom Paley, guitar/vocalist James Reams, and fiddler/vocalist Bill Christophersen. 1992-1998 was recorded in three sessions, basically live, in 1992, 1996, and 1998. Although the inclusion of a fiddle, banjo, and guitar would make the Mysterious Redbirds a string band of sorts, their arrangements are spare, and they lack the volume of groups like the Skillet Lickers. There's lots of good material on this album, including a lively version of "Otto Wood the Bandit." Energetic instrumentals like "Oh My Little Darling/Did You Ever See the Devil?" are bouncy and danceable. Other standouts include "Sangaree," a fun if somewhat odd song where the narrator sings about murder and loosing a moonshine still among other things. "Sweet Sunny South" is a lovely country piece, where the narrator, like many Southerners who migrated to the cities after World War I, longs to return to his home. Although recorded at wide intervals, the album holds together as a piece, which basically shows the commitment the group shares concerning the purity of old-time music. They also share a desire to perform as an ensemble, more concerned with the Zen of the material than flexing instrumental virtuosity. Most of this material has been garnered from '20s and '30s recordings, and with the exception of "I'll Fly Away," these songs and instrumentals are not overly familiar. The Mysterious Redbirds have made a satisfying album that's sure to please lovers of old-time music. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.