“Over coffee and liqueurs we would sometimes listen to John Jacob Niles’ recordings. Our favorite was ‘I Wonder As I Wander,’ sung in a clear, high-pitched voice with a quaver and a modality all his own. The metallic clang of his dulcimer never failed to produce ecstasy. He had a voice which summoned memories of Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere. There was something of the Druid in him. Like a psalmist, he intoned his verses in an ethereal chant which the angels carried aloft to the Glory seat. When he sang of Jesus, Mary and Joseph they became living presences. A sweep of the hand and the dulcimer gave forth magical sounds which caused the stars to gleam more brightly, which peopled the hills and meadows with silvery figures and made the brooks to babble like infants. We would sit there long after his voice had faded out, talking of Kentucky where he was born, talking of the Blue Ridge mountains and the folk from Arkansas…” –Henry Miller, Plexus pp. 366-367
Niles is in classic form on this spectral cycle of American ballads released by RCA Camden in 1956. Can’t find much of anything written about this one. I’m wondering if its simply a volume of earlier recordings resourced into a collection. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’m not including a scan of the back cover. That’s because its really just a catalog of Classical and Light Concert LPs available from Camden at the time. Nothing helpful. FYI, Niles is in fact the songwriter of the seminal classics Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair & Go Way From My Window. Never knew that until today. Had simply assumed anonymous authorship on both counts. 320 vinyl rip by yours truly. Enjoy.