This release offers a pair of fairly early Delius works; they may not be instantly appealing to those making a start with this idiosyncratic English impressionist, but confirmed fans will love them. The roots of Frederick Delius’ Appalachia lay in his experiences as an orange plantation manager in Florida in the late 1880s, where he heard the singing of African-American laborers and, according to his own testimony, first began to think about becoming a composer. The work is subtitled “Variations on an Old Slave Song with Final Chorus for baritone, chorus, and orchestra,” and everything about it is intriguingly confused. Florida is not part of Appalachia. Nor is the Mississippi River delta, which Delius claimed was the inspiration for the work, but which he apparently never saw.
In 1984, well-established Chicago folksingers Bob Gibson and Tom Paxton united with newcomer Anne Hills to form a trio called Best of Friends. For the next year and a half, they performed together, then went their separate ways. But they never recorded as a group. Two decades later, Appleseed Recordings unearthed this 1985 concert performance from Holsteins folk club in Chicago, taped for broadcast by WFMT's The Midnight Special radio show by its host, Rich Warren. Paxton explains that, while all three are essentially solo acts, occasionally they wonder what their songs will sound like with harmony, and this is a chance to find out.