Following the White family’s move from Maine to Southern California, the Kentucky Colonels began life as a family group playing for fun. The oldest boy – guitar, banjo and mandolin player Roland – organised his siblings, with Joanne singing and playing upright bass, Eric Jr on banjo and Clarence on guitar. They won a 1954 talent show, mostly playing material from the radio but before long Joanne dropped out. Roland met banjo player Billy Ray Latham who joined the group that became known as the Country Boys, playing locally during the early 60s. When Eric Jr also left, they brought in Roger Bush on upright bass. This line-up recorded the album “New Sounds Of Bluegrass America”, released in 1963 on the Briar International label, followed by “Appalachian Swing” on World Pacific. The latter established them as one ofAmerica’s premier bluegrass acts.
Their third album, “Long Journey Home”, like so many Newport-related recordings at the time, was issued on Vanguard. The opening tracks showcase their call and response vocals on ‘Roll On Buddy’ and their instrumental work on ‘Bill Cheatham’ and ‘Shuckin’ The Corn’. ‘A Beautiful Life’, ‘Get Down On Your Knees And Pray’ and ‘Over In the Gloryland’, all from the Sunday morning gospel concert, fit the group like a glove, as this sort of material formed a regular part of their repertoire and family history. ‘The Brakeman’s Blues’, written by the highly influential Jimmie Rodgers, sung solo by Roland, was recorded at one of the traditional singing workshops. Another six tracks come from a cold evening guitar workshop where the young Clarence White joins the more experienced Doc Watson, the pair working up some wondrous picking to delight the audience. ‘Long Journey Home’ and ‘In The Pines’ come from a country singing workshop and draw from White family appreciation of acts such as the Monroe Brothers. A banjo workshop session organised by noted player Bill Keith found the Kentucky Colonels taking part in sparkling banjo duels and acting as the back-up band for the session. This CD ends with ‘Flat Fork’ and the traditional ‘Shady Grove’, featuring crowd-pleasing instrument swapping between Roger and Billy Ray, all adding to the variety and quality of this fine 23-track collection.