U.S. SEN. ROBERT BYRD, “Mountain Fiddler,” County Records. 14 tracks.

When U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia died on June 28 at age 92, America lost the longest-serving senator in U.S. history (51 years). And bluegrass and old-time music lost their most powerful friend in the nation’s capitol.

Most Americans knew Byrd as one of the most powerful politicians in Washington. A man who brought home the pork every year to his native West Virginia.

But bluegrass and old-time music fans knew that Byrd was one of them. He had played fiddle for dances back home in West Virginia as a teenager and continued to play even at the peak of his political power.

Byrd also served on the advisory board for the International Bluegrass Music Museum in 1991.

In 1977, when he was 60 and majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Byrd was persuaded to make his first — and only — commercial recording.

Barry Poss, who would later founded Sugar Hill Records, produced the album, which was recorded in Byrd’s office with Doyle Lawson on guitar, James Bailey on banjo and Spider Gilliam on bass.

Now, County Records has re-released the album in CD format as a tribute to Byrd.

The album is a combination of bluegrass and old-time tunes.

Most are traditional tunes, but “Come Sundown She’ll Be Gone” was a 1970 country music hit written by Kris Kristofferson and sung by Bobby Bare.

Byrd sings on 11 tracks and talks about how he learned several of the songs.

He first heard “Old Joe Clark” at a molasses making in the 1920s.

He learned “Cumberland Gap” from men in the boarding house his foster mother ran.

He learned “Forked Deer” from the 78 rpm recordings of Clark Kessinger.

“Mountain Fiddler” is a nice slice of Americana for fans of bluegrass and old-time music as well as fans of the late senator.

Can’t find it in stores? Try www.CountySales.com/

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