The Life & Legacy of Addie Graham


Addie Graham (1890-1978) was born in Wolfe County, Kentucky to a family with a rich singing tradition. She grew up with ballads that originated in the British Isles and with others that originated in the mountains; she also heard many hymns in the unique unaccompanied style of the Primitive and Old Regular Baptists. As a young woman she heard blues songs from the African American crews who built the Ohio & Kentucky Railroad past her home in Breathitt County. She learned from them all. Her vast repertoire included many rare and beautiful pieces. Appalshop produced an LP of her singing in 1978 (reissued on CD in 2008). Her music has become well known in the traditional music community and two generations of artists have recorded her songs. June Appal’s newest release, The Very Day I’m Gone, produced by Addie’s grandson Rich Kirby, presents some of these.

“What an amazing album! The many different interpretations of Addie Graham’s gorgeous songs are a testament to the timeless beauty of her repertoire.” – Rayna Gellert
“A sonic delight, “The Very Day I’m Gone” demonstrates Addie Graham’s relevance and resonance across more than two generations of traditional musicians. Her music is beautiful, varied, and evocative – even when sung by other voices.” – Jeff Keith
“A handsome CD bubbling over with fine music, a wonderful collection of Addie’s music bequeathed to others. I look forward to lots more listening.” – Ron Pen, University of Kentucky

1. Sun to Sun – Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle
2. O&K Train Song – Tom, Brad & Alice
3. The Gospel Ship Has Long Been Sailing – Ginny Hawker
4. Minister’s Farewell/Last of Callahan – Carol Elizabeth Jones and James Leva
5. Darling Don’t You Know That’s Wrong – Rich Kirby
6. Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah – John Gallagher and Scott Prouty
7. Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah – Carol Elizabeth Jones and James Leva
8. Young People Who Delight in Sin – Brett Ratliff
9. Dear Friends Farewell – Tom, Brad & Alice
10. Wild Bill Jones – Rich Kirby
11. Moses and the Israelites – Tom, Brad & Alice
12. We’re Stole and Sold from Africa – Mike Seeger
13. Hungry and Faint and Poor – Lonesome Sisters
14. Ida Red – The Crooked Jades
15. Sister Thou Art Mild and Lovely – Susie Goehring
16. Ice and Snow – Tom Bledsoe and Rich Kirby
17. Lonesome Scenes of Winter – Sarah Wood
18. Come Humble Sinner/Moses and the Israelites – Bruce Greene and Don Pedi
19. The Old Churchyard – The Howard Family
20. The Very Day I’m Gone – Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle

Been A Long Time Traveling

The East Kentucky Mountains have long boasted a ballad tradition without equal in the United States. This recording of the late Addie Graham certainly supports that lofty claim. A real treasure chest of traditional ballads, songs, and hymns, Addie’s astonishing memory and delivery create one of the most important repertoires of traditional song found anywhere. Drawing from every aspect of her long life, Addie Graham offers a picture of black and white musical interchange, humor, death & Justice, and religious life. Addie’s life and her music are charged and enhanced in a personal and sensitive collection of notes compiled jointly by Addie’s grandson, musician Rich Kirby and folklorist Barbara Edwards. A truly beautiful and remarkable collection!


Addie Graham was a masterful singer whose life and repertoire reflect both deep tradition and an era of social change in Appalachia. In Been a Long Time Traveling, Addie sings ballads which trace back to the British Isles, others composed in America, frolic songs and ditties, and religious songs in the Old Regular Baptist tradition. While the Baptist beliefs of her parents forbade the use of musical instruments during her childhood, Addie became an accomplished singer in the complex, highly ornamented style of Kentucky’s oral tradition.

Addie’s repertoire included several extremely rare lyrics, including We’re Stole and Sold From Africa an anti-slavery song which seems to have originated in the antebellum Abolitionist movement. She also sang a number of songs of African American origin, some learned from Black railroad builders.

Addie’s grandson Rich Kirby and folklorist Barbara (Edwards) Kunkle produced an LP of her singing, released in 1977. Been A Long Time Traveling, presented here remastered with eight additional songs and extensive notes, brings Addie’s work to a new generation.


“Addie Graham is somewhere over 80 years old, a non-professional musician, a native of a small hill community in Virginia and the possessor of a rich heritage of countless songs. Performed here acappella or piano-accompaniment, Addie sings like she would if rocking a little one… the album… captures the spirit of old-time singing and embodies the method our culture was passed along before the mass media virtually wiped out the art… for someone looking for authentic American music the way it really was, this is a find.”
— L. Coats, Walnut Valley Occasional
“I was fortunate enough to meet Bascom Lunsford, Dee Hicks, Almeda Riddle and Cas Wallin, singers whose memory contributions enriched our nation. Mrs. Graham is of their caliber, and this collection of her signing from the 1970s is a blessing. Her singing of the abolitionist song, “We’re Stole and Sold from Africa,” will stand your hair on end.”
-Joe Wilson, Blue Ridge Music Center, Galax, VA



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