Introducing the Beers Family
With psaltery, old-time fiddle, limberjacks, mountain dulcimer, fiddlesticks, and fourteen wonderful songs

The Beers Family

1960: Columbia Masterworks MS 6705
CD release 2016: Sony Music Entertainment

  1. Molly Ban
  2. Dumbarton’s Drums
  3. The Brave Volunteer
  4. Dev’lish Mary
  5. Lullaby to Martha
  6. The Connaughtman’s Rambles
  7. The Water Is Wide
  8. A Starry Night to Ramble (Kisses and Love)
  9. The Old Woman Went to the Well
  10. The Green Grass of Shiloh
  11. The Lass from the Low Countree
  12. Speed the Plow
  13. The Palace Grand
  14. Mattie Groves

It would be an understatement to say that this album is a seminal part of my musical psyche; it imbued my aesthetic soul with sounds and themes and psychological elements and motifs—and more—that still turn new corners in me from time to time and yield surprises, but in any case it is a gem of an album.

As to its psychological impact, it might be worth noting that the closing track presents the listener with adultery, murder, and decapitation right alongside love and religion. I can’t say I was aware of that when I was hearing it as a child, however…but the sadness of the tale certainly registered, albeit with an underlying sense of longing I wouldn’t have been able to identify as such until many years later. And then there’s “Dev’lish Mary,” with its titular character decidedly being the stronger of an ill-advised matrimonial pairing, which probably subliminally contributed to my basic orientation as being unfettered by sexism.

The lyrics of the sung songs, however, were never of any particular interest to me: I was just enthralled by the range of the musical richness, whether it be overall sound, unfamiliar instruments (and instrumentation thereof), rhythm, balance, sentimental tuggings, compositional impressions, or just amusement to a child’s ear.

One of the Beers Family’s subsequent albums (I want to call it their next one, but there’s some uncertainty about release dates), “Dumbarton’s Drums,” had some tracks that moved me more than this one’s did (most especially “The House Carpenter”), but the glorious range of the ensemble’s repertoire and capability shines best on this their official first but actual second album (the first being Walkie in the Parlor, which I only learned of in my 50s and is more straight-ahead Irish-background folk Americana).

“Lullaby to Martha” is indelibly in my soul, certainly, with its plucked dulcimer string highlights accentuating poignant feelings of fear and loss. That curious contradiction—a purported lullaby, drenched with worry?—might have contributed to my affinity for the music of Eurythmics later, with their knack for blending dark and light so deftly and effectively. Or maybe it’s just Scottishness, which I readily acknowledge as a formidable and excellent cultural resonance.

Since I’m not addressing this album sequentially, I want to close this assessment by saying that the opening track, “Molly Ban,” is to this day amazingly fun to my ear as well as downright alarming here and there—thrilling, and a brilliant way to kick off the experience of this album (immediately followed by an opposite effect, the utterly charming and tender “Dumbarton’s Drums”). If you get curious about this album because of what I’ve commented on here, at the very least do check out “Molly Ban” on YouTube…it’s a lovely rustic cultural ride.

When Sony issued this on CD, in 2016, they didn’t go to any more effort than ensuring a clean audio transfer and scanning the cover…which I thought was rather stingy of them, so I decided to go the extra mile for whoever might encounter this page. So you can download the album’s liner notes, laid out in booklet form, via this link: