Sawmill Man

Dec 7, 2005 at 12:00 am

Born and raised in the backwoods of Old Sand Mountain, Alabama (in an honest-to-god tarpaper shack), Joseph “Cast” King does not fuck around. See, at age 79, Sawmill Man is King’s debut album. He first hit the stage at 14 with the Alabama Pals and eventually toured the United States with his Country Drifters — even cutting songs for Sam Phillips at Sun Records in the 1950s. Now, a half-century later, Sawmill draws you into King’s reality; you’re there with the elderly gent — watching his gnarled fingers clutch the neck of his guitar, hearing the weight of missed opportunities, sorrow and heartbreak. Part of the songs’ allure is that they were brought to light long after King’s music career sputtered to a halt. Alabama musician Matt Downer taped him after prowling the Sand Mountain area “catching” songs by making field recordings of local musicians, most of whom were well-aged. Downer’s talks with the old pickers invariably produced the name, Cast King. He then found King and this album is the result. Lyrically it’s great — and with peers like Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, you can only imagine the music. Spartan, old-time country tunes — written by a man who’s already lived them. We need songs like these.

Robin Johnson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].