Do you know D.C.?
Get our free newsletter to stay in the know about local D.C.
“A great big howdy to you neighbors out there,” Hylo Brown greets the audience at the 1959 show captured on In Concert. “If you see anything you like up here, kinda put your hands together and we’ll work that much harder for you.” This sort of easy affability—as well as Brown’s buckskin jacket—made him an easy target for the folk music intelligentsia, one of whom called Brown’s performance at Newport earlier that summer “phony and cheap.” In fact, Brown was a more authentic mountain son of Appalachia than many a first-generation bluegrasser, including fellow Kentuckian Bill Monroe. Nicknamed for his wide vocal range, Brown was perhaps bluegrass’s finest singer during the ’50s, whether he was guesting with Flatt & Scruggs or fronting his own band, the Timberliners. Recorded at the New River Ranch in Rising Sun, Md., In Concert shows Brown at the height of his powers, lending his storyteller’s touch to a set of standards; fiddler Tater Tate and banjoist Jim Smoak provide whipsmart backup on chestnuts like “Lonesome Road Blues” and “Tragic Romance.” As bluegrass moved to college campuses and folk festivals in the ’60s, Brown lost his way—as well as the high end of his voice—and finished his career playing schools and small-town jamborees. Along with Brown’s hard-to-find Capitol records, In Concert is a fine testament to an unjustly forgotten figure in country music.