Si Kahn re-releases an underappreciated bluegrass classic from the turn of the century

Oct 15, 2021

Been A Long Time (Sliced Bread Records CD-SB71202)

Featuring the late Charles Sawtelle, Pete Wernick, Laurie Lewis, Todd Philips, Tom Rozum, and Sally van Meter.




WATCH: Larry Vellani’s video for the hard driving “Hear That Sound:”  

“Si Kahn’s Been A Long Time is the second great CD to come out of the late, great Charles Sawtelle’s Rancho DeVille recording studio…. Backed by a luminous band including Sawtelle on guitar, Laurie Lewis on fiddle and vocals, Pete Wernick on banjo, Tom Rozum on mandolin and vocals, Todd Phillps on bass, and a few special guest artists, this is the first time singer and songwriter Si Kahn has been able to record a bluegrass project, and it’s a gem.” — David J. McCarty, Bluegrass Unlimited June 2001

In mid-December 1997, a remarkable group of musicians gathered at Charles Sawtelle’s studio in Boulder, Colorado to record Si Kahn’s bluegrass classic, Been A Long Time. Despite glowing reviews, Been a Long Time lacked the distribution, marketing, and radio promotion the album needed. For a score of years, the album has languished as an underappreciated gem discovered by lucky fans at his record table. The discovery of 1000 booklets by Carl Apter of Sliced Bread Records led to producing a new run of CDs celebrating the 20th anniversary of an album important in bluegrass and folk music that deserves a wider audience.

Learn more including song descriptions at

“Been a Long Time is political folk at its best and will be greatly appreciated by fans who have been waiting six years for a new Kahn album.” — Ronnie LankfordAllMusic

“Si Kahn has created a sweet and lively collection of new songs on Been a Long Time” — Matt WatrobaSing Out!

Si Kahn writes about Been A Long Time:

I never waited in a house built of grey rock and stone for Gabriel Kahn, my father’s father, my grandfather, my Zade to come home from a job on the railroad. But it’s also true that after ‘Gabe’ deserted the Czar’s army in Russia, he indentured himself to the Canadian Pacific Railway, a year’s labor in return for ship’s passage to Canada, swinging a pick, digging with a shovel as they built the roadbed and laid the track. Did hearing his stories, told in Yiddish-tinged English, inspire me to write the song “Been A Long Time”? I don’t know. It’s been too long a time.

But listening to the song now for the first time in many years, I am grateful to welcome him home. And I never lived in a tarpaper shack in a coal camp. But when our family drove along the narrow twisting mountain roads that led from our comfortable two-story house in State College, Pennsylvania to the train station in Lewistown, past the Devil’s Elbow where legend held that if you drove fast enough you could see the back end of your car as the front end rounded that sharpest of curves, we passed greying shacks where barefoot children and gaunt mothers stood side by side on weathered porches. Did what I saw then, now locked in my mind as fading photographs, inspire me to write “Houses On the Hill”? How could I know?

But listening to the song today, what so deeply troubled me when I was five years old comes back sharply and painfully. Back when I wrote these songs, it was memories like these that inspired the music. Today, listening to this album for the first time in years, it’s the music that brings back the memories. The very last line in this entire album is “Deep in our hearts where the song never ends.” Was there a reason I sang that line twice? I’ll never know. But I do know that the music on this album; the music I listen to during my nightly “graveyard shift”; the music I write, sing, play with friends I’ve known for years, with musicians I’ve never met before; the music I perform, record, send out into the world; that music is deep, deep, deep in my heart. May that song never end.

Si Kahn
The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
Labor Day, 2021

This 20th anniversary release of Been A Long Time is dedicated to Carl Apter, whose steadfast friendship and passion for music made possible both this and the original album.