“Americana Youth of Southern Appalachia,” a CD release from ShareAmericaFoundation.org, debuted recently to radio via AirPlay Direct.
The CD landed at the No. 8 spot among the top 50 albums in the world, according to producer Randall Franks.
The project highlights more than 30 youth, ages 11-27 performing on 18 new recordings. It serves as a fundraiser for the non-profit (501-C-3) Share America Foundation Inc. and its Pearl and Floyd Franks Scholarship. The scholarship and organizational projects such as this CD encourage youth in Appalachian music styles.
Ringgold student Caleb Lewis, a Share America scholar, was 13 when he went into the studio for his first time for this project.
“I had a lot of fun working on the CD,” he said. “I enjoyed meeting many talented people.”
He selected “Baby’s Coming Home” for his feature guitar performance.
“It was pretty easy song and it was one I just learned the week before,” he said. “I really like Chet Atkins’ style better than most of the guitar players I have heard.”
Franks, of Ringgold, is the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame actor who appeared on NBC and CBS as “Officer Randy Goode” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” in other TV series and films.
“It is so amazing to see a young performer who walks into a recording studio for the first time and finds their voice as they record a song or tune,” he said. “The look on their faces, the first time they hear themselves sing or play on playback is so heartwarming.”
Chickamauga pianist, harmonica stylist and drummer Colton Brown did both feature performances of “Piano Man” and a classic hymn medley and backed other performers on their features.
“I was blessed to be part of this incredible opportunity for Share America. I learned valuable lessons from my time in the recording studio and enjoyed getting to know other artists,” Brown said. “Mr. Franks goes above and beyond to help young people interested in music. I chose ‘Piano Man’ because I appreciate the challenge of playing the harmonica and piano at the same time. I love Billy Joel’s style of playing.”
The 18-month-long production brought together performers from Southern Appalachian region of Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina to share their talents.
“This project gave many of the youth their first opportunity to collaborate with other musicians and learn how to play on someone else’s song or tune,” Franks said. “Some wrote their own song or selected a new song to create. It gives them a chance to see their lessons and practice turn into something they hopefully wish to share for years to come.”
Ringgold’s Wally O’Donald was 10 when he recorded a song by Dwight Yoakum, one of his favorite singers.
“It was really cool to be in a recording studio and see all of the equipment,” O’Donald said. “I really liked playing both songs and especially ‘Traveler’s Lantern.’”
He also recorded the Tommy Scott rockabilly song “Been Gone a Long Time.”
“I didn’t know before how much time it takes to record a song,” he said. “I am grateful though for the opportunity.”
Ringgold pianist and vocalist Ryan Stinson recorded “It’s a Hard Road to Make Love Easy,” and “Someone Greater Than I” added his hand in composing and served as associate producer for the CD. “It has been a joy to work alongside Randall on this project. I have a couple of original tunes on the CD that I’m really excited about, and I think everyone will enjoy the variety of songs contributed by all of the artists on the album.”
Among the other youth performers are: Emerald Butler; Warren Carnes; Phillip Cross; Landon Fitzpatrick; Nicholas Hickman; Trevor Holder; Kings Springs Road of Johnson City, Tenn. including Tyler Griffith, Owen Schinkel, Kylie Anderson, Josh Meade, and Max Silverstein; Isaac Moore; Mountain Cove Bluegrass Band of Chattanooga, Tenn. including Eli Beard, Cody Harvey, Colin Mabry, Wil Markham, Tyler Martelli, and Chris Brown; Matthew Nave; Wally O’Donald; Drew Sherrill; SingAkadamie including Jacob Trotter, Grant Lewellen, Nicholas Hickman, Lilly Anne York, Haleigh Grey, Kayla Starks, Chelsea Brewster, Logan Lynne and Kiersten Suttles; Landon Wall; and Tyler West.
The other musicians contributing their talents to the effort on various recordings are special guests Gospel Music Hall of Fame member Jeff Hullender, SingAkadamie director Sheri Thrower, Tim Witt, John Roberts; Bary Wilde; Chris Gordon; Tim Neal; and Mitch Snow.
The majority of the recording was completed at Tim Witt Studios in Rocky Face, Ga. with Witt serving as recording engineer and were mastered by Ringgold youth Bradley Powell. Other engineers participating on specific recordings were Steve Mabry (Steve Mabry Studio), Mitch Snow, Ben Bateson, Dan Boner (East Tennessee State University Recording Lab) and Josh Chuma (Breaker 17 Studio). Ryan Stinson served as Associate Producer.
The 18 recordings include: Original Songs — It’s A Hard Road to Make Love Easy; How Could I Go?; What About All These American Flags?; Wash Day; Time for the Blues; Midnight Train; Filling the River with Tears; Someone Greater Than I; I Believe He Spoke to Me; five standards — The Star Spangled Banner; When We All Get to Heaven & Blessed Assurance; Farther Along; and I Want to Be Ready; and five covers — Chet Atkin’s “Baby’s Coming Home;” Billy Joel’s “Piano Man;” Dwight Yoakam’s “Traveler’s Lantern;” Ramblin’ Tommy Scott’s “Been Gone A Long Time;” and Billy Hill’s “Old Spinning Wheel.”
Franks designed the cover, including elements of the painting “The Mountain” by the late country and western film and music star Ramblin’ “Doc” Tommy Scott provided for the project courtesy of the Scott Family.
The North Georgia Electric Membership Corporation Foundation provided grant funds assisting with two key aspects of the project, mailing costs for radio distribution of the CD to Americana, bluegrass and gospel radio stations, and underwriting a portion of the studio costs to support first time recordings for youth from its service areas. Portions of the project were also supported by the Kiwanis Club of Ringgold and the Wes and Shirley Smith Charitable Endowment.
Share America is also releasing the project to 11,000 radio stations around the world via AirPlay Direct. Member stations can add it to programming by visiting AirPlayDirect.com/RandallFranks-AmericanaYouthOfSouthernAppalachia