A Tribute To Bill Napier is a new CD from the Hurley, VA based family band, Johnny Jackson and James Stiltner. The CD features Mr Jackson, on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, James Stiltner on lead guitar, mandolin, banjo, James’s wife Cindi on bass and Edith Jackson providing lead and tenor vocals. James is a seasoned musician, playing in Sammy Adkins’ Sandy Hook Mountain Boys.
We asked James to explain a little more about the family project.
Tell me a little more about Bill Napier.
JS: Bill Napier was one of the most respected sidemen that the Stanley Brothers ever had. He wrote the original “Daybreak In Dixie” that Ralph Stanley later used. He was also the first full-time guitar that the Stanley Brothers ever had, predating George Shuffler. His standout tracks included “Mountain Dew” “Raining Here This Morning” and “Over In the Gloryland”. He then went on to form a partnership with Charlie Moore, and had a major hit with “Truck Driver’s Queen”.
What were your motivations behind the recording and what are your goals now that it’s completed?
JS: Our motivation behind the recording is Bill has been one of the biggest influences on my lead picking, on the mandolin, banjo, and guitar. He was born about 20 miles from where I currently live. Our goals now that it is completed is that it will spread the word about Bill himself, and people will seek him and his recordings out.
Where did you get the songs from? Are they Bill’s songs, or did he previously sing or record them?
JS: The songs are all either written by Bill (the instrumentals) or co-written with Charlie Moore.
What’s your relationship to Johnny and Edith?
JS: Johnny and Edith are my grandparents, and Cindi Stiltner is my wife.
Finally, what’s the significance of truck driving?
JS: The significance of the truck driving songs are those are the songs that Bill and Charlie Moore had their biggest hits with.
The aforementioned Truck Driver’s Queen casts a warming, comforting air over the beginning of the album, with its rhythmic feel. Johnny Jackson voice is weathered but strong, and the guitar playing is excellent. Edith’s voice too, is fascinating, a hold-over from the past which cuts through the surrounding music. The musicians are in control throughout the record, from the pacey, measured mandolin of Grundy Hoedown, to the intimate, traditional feel of Praise God I’m Ready To Go.
The record feels live, like a good, old-time family recording, which is what it is. James’ headnodding, rolling banjo on Brushy Creek is thorough and professional, respectful and loving.
The album blends traditional country with elements of old time and bluegrass to create a fun family tribute to Mr Napier. Different tracks draw out different sections of the sound, with the Merle Haggard-like Guitar Pickin’ Truck Driver contrasting nicely with the bright, happy, beguiling mandolin tune Roaring Creek. The closer, Twilight Swamp is another example of the fantastic picking that the family put into the album’s instrumental pieces.
The Johnny Jackson Band have recorded a fitting tribute to Bill Napier, who would be proud of their taking of his music, and giving it to the world.
Find out more on Facebook or contact the band at firstname.lastname@example.org