FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN by Walt Koken
“An American Odyssey ” by Walt Koken, Mudthumper Music, 2017, 164 pages, softbound. Those who are from the so-called “revival” years in Old Time music will enjoy this book that chronicles the formation and life of perhaps the best known band of the time, the Highwoods String Band. The group, made up of Bob Potts, Mac Benford, and Walt Koken, struggled to make a living during a decade when there was a lot of excitement and interest in old-time music, but not quite enough to keep a young, college age band together. The group made 2 or 3 LPs for the Rounder label, featuring a lot of the music that the band got from re-issues of the past as well as tunes learned from newly discovered idols like Tommy Jarrell and the Hollow Rock String Band. The trio was especially successful with a two fiddle sound a la the great Gid Tanner & His Skillet lickers. As readers will gather from this book, it was a rough & tumble life for this and other musicians: old vehicles that broke down, gigs that got cancelled, little to eat and lots of miles traveled with little financial reward—all of this is clearly detailed in Koken’s book. The group did have many interesting experiences, and we weren’t really aware that the band had as many gigs as it did. This book will bring back many memories of old time music as it happened in the 1960s & 70s, and there are dozens of names mentioned that fans of this band will recognize.