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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Book and CD on Blind Alfred Reed produced by ETSU's Dr. Ted Olson

February 15, 2016

JOHNSON CITY Dr. Ted Olson, an East Tennessee State University faculty member in Appalachian Studies, served as producer and liner notes author for a book and CD about the influential 1920s-era singer-songwriter Blind Alfred Reed, to be titled "Appalachian Visionary" and to be released on Dust-to-Digital label this month.

Reed made his first recordings at the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions, and he was one of only three acts-along with the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers- to be signed by Artists and Repertoire Producer Ralph Peer to a long-term contract for Victor Records.

Blind from birth, Reed supported a large family by working as a farmer and street musician in southern West Virginia.

An inaugural inductee into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007, Reed is best known for his song "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live," widely considered to be one of the seminal songs of the Depression Era.

Reed's socially-conscious songs composed and recorded during the early years of the recorded sound industry foreshadowed the work of later politically engaged singer-songwriters such as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Steve Earle.

Among those who have recorded Reed's songs are Ry Cooder, Bruce Springsteen, David Lindley, Old Crow Medicine Show, UB40, Murray Head, The New Lost City Ramblers and The Red Clay Ramblers.

In a recent article posted on The Bluegrass Situation website, music critic Stephen Deusner referred to Reed as "a supremely influential musician" and praised "Appalachian Visionary" as "a lovely reminder of the central role music can play in addressing current events and the plight of the average American."

"Appalachian Visionary" features all the recordings that Reed ever made, remastered by Grammy Award-winning sound engineer Michael Graves.

Olson's earlier projects include his work as producer and liner notes author for four boxed sets released by Bear Family Record, including sets compiling the 1929-1930 Knoxville Sessions, the 1928-1929 Johnson City Sessions, and the Grammy Award nominated 1927-1928 Bristol Sessions, as well as "Tennessee Ernie Ford, 1949-1960: Portrait of an American Singer," nominated this year for a Grammy for Best Album Notes. Olson also produced and wrote liner notes for two CDs for the Great Smoky Mountains Association: the Grammy Award nominee "Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music" and "Carroll Best and the White Oak String Band," both non-profit releases intended to benefit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For further information, contact Olson at 423-439-4379 or

A! ExtraTopics: Music