Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line

by Sean Jewell ::

Bluegrass music is the music of the Appalachian Mountains. Like those mountains, Ola Belle Reed’s influence, memory, songs, and family reach across time, from Ola Belle’s birthplace in Lansing, NC all the way up to Rising Sun, MD. Her voice is solid, woody, and rises like the smoke above the trees on the ridge. Her songwriting was so strong some of her compositions became traditionals, and even in her own time, in the small towns she played, to small audiences, people knew she was special. Her family still sings her songs today in Childs, Maryland; those songs were first recorded in the ’60s by folklorist Henry Glassie. Another folklorist, Clifford Murphy, picked up where Glassie left off, and beginning in 2009 sought Glassie and Ola Belle’s family out to put together a definitive collection.

The result is Dust-to-Digital’s 265 page hardcover book and accompanying CDs with great sound quality, one of Ola Belle’s songs and the other of her family’s. Like the title of one of her most popular songs “I’ve Endured,” Ola Belle’s music has lasted because she was herself a bit of a folklorist. In interviews Ola could never recall a time in her life without mountain music, and she lived a long life sharing music, passing it along to her family because she believed that culture should be shared to bring people together. Ola Belle’s work told the stories of people like her, and those not so well off, but who sang anyway.


Read an Interview with folklorist Henry Glassie about recording Ola Belle Reed in 1966 and 1967 here.

From the press release:

New Book and CD Set Sheds Light on the Music and Legacy of Ola Belle Reed

Dust-to-Digital is excited to present the first in-depth look at the life of Ola Belle Reed, a groundbreaking artist who ranks highly among the all-time greatest performers of authentic, old-time music.

“What do you do when different musical forms come into a kind of fusion of what today is called old-time music, and country music, and the folk song revival? I think that story is in Ola Belle.” – Henry Glassie, co-author of Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line

This deluxe edition highlights Ola Belle’s deep repertoire – folk ballads, minstrel songs, country standards, and originals – and traces the impact her music made and is still making today. Included are in-depth essays and liner notes by noted folklorists Henry Glassie and Cliff Murphy, as well as incredible sounding audio transferred by Doug Peach and remastered by Osiris Studio.

Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line is available from Dust-to-Digital now.