Hedy West was born in Georgia in 1938, into a politicised family. Following Klu Klux Klan cross-burning warnings, shortly after moving to New York's bohemian Greenwich Village, the family home was razed to the ground.
As Ken Hunt notes, Hedy was a natural. Her voice is eminently suited to the dark lyric content of many of these older songs, with a harsh tonality (not unlike Hazel Dickens or Rosalie Sorrels) that speaks of hard times and struggle. Her banjo (and occasional guitar) provides exemplary accompaniment to her vocals.
“Hedy West Volume 1” came out originally in 1963 and “Vol 2” in 1964, the latter year also seeing the first release of the “Mike Seeger” LP (on Fontana in the UK). Both artists attracted critical attention on both sides of the Atlantic for their uncompromising talent. For the new CD versions, there are two bonus tracks on the Hedy West: the previously unissued versions of 'Cotton Mill Girls' and 'Who's Going To Shoe (Them Pretty Little Feet)'. The Mike Seeger is a straight reissue as there are no other outtakes or extra tracks available from the session.
Hedy visited the UK and Europe frequently from 1964 onwards, and lived over here for several years, and made an enormous impression on audiences. Talking recently to the acclaimed British singer-songwriter and guitarist Steve Tilston, he told me seeing Hedy perform when he was 16 years old shook his world "I was so taken with her sound that I almost gave up guitar in favour of banjo".