GARRET MATHEWS, “Folks Are Talking,” no label. 33 tracks.

“Folks Are Talking” isn’t a bluegrass album. And Garret Mathews isn’t a musician.

What it is is a double CD with Mathews, a retired newspaper columnist, reading 28 of the columns and feature stories he wrote for the Bluefield (W. Va.) Daily Telegraph between 1974 and 1979.

And interspersed among the columns and stories are six bluegrass/folk songs, two written by Mathews’ wife, MaryAnne.

Songs include the traditional “Camp In The Wilderness,” “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” “Shady Grove,” “Wayfaring Stranger” and MaryAnne Mathews’ “Route 52 Blues” and “Mountaineers Will Always Be Free.”

Mathews’ stories are mostly about older people who have now been dead for decades.

They include an early UMW organizer, a horse trader, survivors of coal mine explosions, coal camp baseball players, a girl born during the flood of 1977, a cockfighter and a female furrier “who carves muskrats while eating peanut-butter sandwiches.”

Between the music and the stories, the album makes for a great visit to way of life that’s almost come and gone in Appalachia.

Can’t find it in stores? Try folksaretalking.com.

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