JOHNNY JACKSON & JAMES STILTNER, TRIBUTE TO BILL NAPIER
It’s good to see somebody saluting Bill Napier. This writer saw him several times in the late 1950s when he was playing mandolin with the Stanley Brothers. He also supplied typical country comedy as “Pap,” a garrulous old man who wore a goofy hat and seemed to know everything. Born in Wise, Va., and raised in Grundy, Va., Napier was an accomplished musician; he composed the well-known mandolin instrumental “Daybreak In Dixie,” recording it with the Stanleys for the Mercury label in November 1957. He also played some of the earliest lead guitar found on their recordings, and was the first to experiment with the crosspicking style which the legendary George Shuffler would later refine and popularize. Napier eventually teamed with Charlie Moore, where he played banjo, as well as flatpicked and crosspicked guitar.
Jackson and Stiltner obviously share a great admiration for the music of Bill Napier, and here they revisit some of the tunes and songs that Bill wrote or co-wrote with Charlie Moore. Nine of the ten titles were originally recorded by Moore and Napier; the other, “Roaring Creek,” Bill would later record on a solo album. The singers are James Stiltner’s grandparents, Johnny Jackson and wife Edith. Their sound is pure old-time country, rough-hewn, evoking singing styles from a bygone era. The titles are evenly divided between five instrumentals and five vocals; one gospel number and four truck-driver songs.
The first-class instrumentals are the work of James Stiltner, who has played in the past with Sammy Adkins and Lonesome Will Mullins. Besides his performances here with the Johnny Jackson Band, he also plays with Misty Stevens and Mark Stonecipher. Stiltner displays equal abilities on banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar (the latter in both flatpicked and crosspicked stylings). Stiltner’s wife Cindi provides the bass playing. I wish they had given us a couple or so more numbers, but that’s my only complaint to an otherwise engaging set. (James Stiltner, P.O. Box 719, Hurley, VA 24620.)WVS