Jack Hinshelwood: 50 Years in the Making

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Jack Hinshelwood

by Kara M Bachman

photo by Jeff Poston

50 Years in the Making

Not everybody gets the chance to create an album featuring a colossal lineup of carefully curated favorite musicians. Most would call it a dream job to select memorable songs and somehow get musicians such as Doyle Lawson to participate. But that’s what happened for Jack Hinshelwood when he put out the call to the virtuosos in his circle.

He had just wrapped up a decade-long stint as director of The Crooked Road, a music heritage trail there in Virginia.

After this, he undoubtedly still had many contacts who recognized his efforts to spread Appalachian music and preserve its legacy.

“Music had always been a passion, but not an occupation for me,” Hinshelwood explained. At this time of change in his life, it was finally time to delve into something new.

What’s more, during the past two years of COVID-19 shutdowns, a record he’d wanted to create for many years started to beckon. It was the perfect thing to fill the empty space.

“This project probably helped keep me sane when we were all of a sudden cut off from friends and the music gatherings you would do,” he explained. “It’s rewarding. This is definitely the best work I have ever done. “If I get hit by a bus tomorrow,” he laughed, “I’ll know I did the best I could do.”

That “best” culminated in 50 Years in the Making: Old Time, Blues, and Bluegrass Music.

The Release

The indie release includes 22 songs he selected from a possible track list he’d assembled for consideration. The result is a release for the first week of April, for digital download and in CD form in two different volumes of music.

The Performers

The performers Hinshelwood got onboard is impressive and includes Doyle Lawson, Butch Robins, Scott Freeman, and Michael Cleveland. The lineup features over 20 artists, with a few unexpected participants that will lend a “world” vibe to the sounds.

Musicians featured on 50 Years in the Making: Old Time, Blues, and Bluegrass Music include: Ronan Browne; Jim Van Cleve; Michael Cleveland; Jacob Eller; Brennan Ernst; Jamie Ferguson; Dom Flemons; Dori Freeman; Scott Freeman; Trey Hensley; Jeff Hoffman; Rob Ickes; Doug Jernigan; Doyle Lawson; Steven Mead; Dale Perry; Ivy Phillips; Butch Robins; Sandy Shortridge; Ronnie Simpkins; Wayne Taylor; Allan Walton; Phil Wiggins; and Debbie Yates.

Also included are euphonium player Steven Mead and Irish uilleann pipes, and whistle player Ronan Browne.

Hinshelwood had been enjoying and collecting – literally, for about 50 years – a roster of songs he had someday dreamed of recording. Most came from the public domain. A few were from old traditional composers such as 19th century English and Scottish balladeer Francis Child. For added variety, the lyrics of two songs are simply poems Hinshelwood set to music.

This music is not just for the bluegrass fan; it’s for anyone who loves all forms of traditional music. While it’s primarily traditional in sound, Hinshelwood wasn’t a stickler for keeping things too narrow. Found throughout are other influences.

It all came together because he just reached out and asked. That’s all it took.

“I got to thinking …I know all these wonderful artists. I reached out to folks whose music I really admire,” he said. “I was pleased that no one turned me down. Nobody said no.”

He uses the record release to “support local nonprofits who do some great work.” His labor of love has also resulted in “a two-night event in two different locations.” Performances coincide with the record dropping. The first happens on April 4 at the McGlothlin Center at E&H College in Emory, Virginia, benefiting Appalachian Sustainable Development. The second night happens April 5 at the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, to help the Montgomery Museum of Art & History.

“Some of them are centuries old,” he said, “and some are modern bluegrass standards. I really love variety,” he said. “There are touches of Celtic, western swing, and folk mixed in there as well.” 

photo by Jeff Hofmann

In the record’s liner notes, a message from one of Hinshelwood’s friends might help explain why so many wanted to be involved. The cooperation no doubt came about due to the respect described by Ted Olson, Professor of Appalachian Studies and Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies at East Tennessee State University. Part of Olson’s comment in the liner notes read:

Jack is deeply respected in southwest Virginia for his passionate support of Appalachia’s music and of the culture that sustained the music.