11 August 2003
I am no kind of bluegrass expert. On the other hand, my father was, and is, a devotee of the sort of country music that grew out of bluegrass, and resisted the orchestral intrusions that followed, which inevitably meant that I grew up with Lefty Frizzell and Webb Pierce and Kitty Wells and Ernest Tubb; taking a step or two sideways up into the hills was not so difficult for me.
The advantage of being no kind of expert, of course, is that there are still plenty of discoveries to be made, and one of those discoveries, for me, was a store. And what a store it is: County Sales, down the hill from something or other in beautiful downtown Floyd, Virginia, seems to be the repository for all that is good and melodious in Appalachia. Fred First and I wandered into the modest little operation, and I was instantly smitten: there was enough there to justify filing by label and catalog number. (At the time, I didn't know they also did a thriving mail-order and Web business.) I snagged an Alison Krauss album I hadn't seen before, and asked the staff about late-Fifties/early-Sixties Starday recordings of the Stanley Brothers. Somewhere a lamb shook his tail twice, and before the second shake was quite through they'd come up with a 4CD box set. I didn't want to schlep this all the way across the country and have it melt down on me in the trunk, so I asked them to mail it out when I got home, which they did.
And yes, I suppose I could have gotten the same box set from amazon.com, but I wouldn't have had the thrill of browsing the old store, and I would have had to fork out an extra eleven bucks to boot. God only knows what it would have cost to special-order it from one of our wondrously-uninformed chain stores.