Jim Watson, Alan Jabbour, Ken Perlman - You Can't Beat The Classics
Jim's Home


You Can’t Beat the Classics is a compact-disc (CD) collection of twenty-two distinctive settings of oldtime music classics and rarities from Appalachia and beyond. It is performed by three artists: Alan Jabbour on fiddle, Ken Perlman on clawhammer banjo, and Jim Watson on guitar and vocals. Classic tunes are inherently worthwhile musically, or they would not have become classics. Certain tunes also seemed worth revisiting because fresh versions might stir up renewed interest. We hope that the musicality of our settings stirs fresh enthusiasm for these grand old classics. For good measure, we’ve also included a number of wonderful tunes never released before.

Alan Jabbour says, "Ken Perlman and I have been playing music together for fifteen years, and ten years ago we released a CD of fiddle-banjo duets, Southern Summits. You Can’t Beat the Classics sounds more “band-like” thanks to a third musician, Jim Watson, who joined me on the second Hollow Rock String Band LP in the early 1970s and occasionally has played with Ken and me in recent years. We hope our threesome brings a fresh sound to this posy of classics and rarities. As always, we owe special tribute to the musicians from whom we learned our tunes. Our debt is first to Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia, my main fiddle mentor and an extraordinary source for the old 19th-century Virginia-West Virginia repertory. Other splendid fiddlers like Burl Hammons, Doc White, Snake Chapman, and John R. Griffin contributed tunes as well; we thank all who generously shared their music."

Send a check for $17.50 (includes shipping) to
Jim Watson
132 Justice St.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516

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Review (Raleigh) News & Observer: Sit in on just about any old-time music session in the Triangle, and sooner or later someone may ask for “Kitchen Girl,” “Over the Waterfall” or another tune handed down from the 1960s by the Hollow Rock String Band.

Based in the Hollow Rock community of Durham, the band recorded two albums that predated and set the stage for the Red Clay Ramblers, founded in 1972. Folklorist and fiddler Alan Jabbour was the source of much Hollow Rock repertoire, which he had learned and recorded in the Virginia home of octogenarian fiddler, Henry Reed.

“You Can’t Beat the Classics” is a 19-track CD featuring a dozen Henry Reed tunes, plus selections from Burl Hammons, Snake Chapman and others. They’re performed by Jabbour, retired director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, master banjoist Ken Perlman and former Red Clay Rambler and Hollow Rock guitarist Jim Watson.

The “classics” here refer to standard old-time gems, such as “Old Joe Clark,” “Hell Among the Yearlings” and “Turkey in the Straw.” With two exceptions, all selections, recorded in Chapel Hill’s Rubber Room studio, are instrumentals. The songs – “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” and “Casey Jones” – are sung by Watson in his distinctively ethereal tenor.

Familiar tunes are given new voicings, while others recorded for the first time may provide fresh repertoire for old-time enthusiasts. Together, they offer harmonious continuity from past to present for all who delight in the old-time way. Jabbour’s informative booklet provides discussions for each tune, along with tunings for banjo and/or fiddle.

...Jack Bernhardt
Where Next?

Jim's Home

at the Cave

Don't Tell Me,
I Don't Know
First solo CD

Willie's Redemption
Second solo CD

This World Would
Be All Sunshine
Third solo CD

Red Clay Ramblers

March 2, 2015