Personnel: Red Allen (vocals, tenor, guitar); Red Allen; Frank Wakefield (vocals, tenor, mandolin); Bill Yates (vocals, tenor, double bass); Bill Emerson (vocals, baritone, banjo); Ralph (Robbie) Robinson (vocals, banjo); Pete Kuykendall (guitar, double bass); Jim Cox, Tom Morgan (double bass); Wayne Yates (vocals, baritone, bass voice, mandolin); Porter Church (banjo); Chubby Wise, Scotty Stoneman, Billy Baker (fiddle).
Liner Note Authors: Jon Hartley Fox; Jon Hartley Fox.
Recording information: Recordings, Inc., Baltimore, MD (04/1963-??/1965); Wynwood Studio, Falls Church, VA (04/1963-??/1965).
Photographers: Wayne Yates; Gene Lowinger; Keith Russell; Paul Gerry.
While it's common, and perhaps unfair, to judge new music against classics from yesteryear, the process is inevitable. It's the handful of recordings by a handful of artists that serve as touchstones for everything that follows, and remind reviewers, critics, and listeners just how far many new artists have to go. The early- to mid- '60s recordings that Red Allen made for Rebel and Melodeon fit into that rare category, qualifying as fabulous bluegrass that also serves as an acid test to post-millennium purveyors of jazzed-up mountain music. Many factors -- great pickers, good material -- work toward the overall effect, but the secret ingredient on Keep on Going is Allen's ability to inject everything he touches with lots of country soul. There's nothing particularly special about the lyric of "I Don't Know Why," but Allen's lead, and his harmony with Wayne Yates on the chorus, turn each line into a sad refrain that reaches down deep. The cuts with brothers Billy and Wayne Yates, in particular, sound as old-timey as 1946, while the earlier material with mandolinist Frank Wakefield combines old-timey singing with cutting-edge instrumental work. Keep on Going reminds listeners that while bluegrass certainly benefits from instrumental proficiency and smoothly blended harmony, the truly great musicians fill their music with a depth of feeling and inspiration. Allen's work will also remind listeners how bluegrass was made back in the old days, and teach aspiring musicians exactly what it takes to make a classic. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.