The Old-Time Herald Volume 5, Number 8


Any Old Time String Band - Bid You Goodnight
Kate Brislin & Katy Moffatt - Sleepless Nights
Janette Carter - Living with Memories
Roger Cooper - Going Back To Old Kentucky
Darby & Tarlton - On The Banks Of A Lonely River
Darby & Tarlton - Complete Recordings
Deseret String Band - Utah: Songs of Statehood
Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard - Pioneering Women of Bluegrass
Michael Doucet - Learn to Play Real Cajun Fiddle
Paul & Win Grace & Family - Dance Upon the Earth
Skip Gorman - Lonesome Prairie Love
The Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association Guide to Running a Fiddle Contest by Bill Shull
The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters - The Galax Way
Tim O'Brien with The O'Boys - Red On Blonde
Mark Rubin & Kevin Smith - Slap Bass (The Ungentle Art
The Skillet Lickers - Old-Time Fiddle Tunes And Songs From North Georgia
Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys - Short Life Of Trouble: Songs Of Grayson And Whitter
Art Thieme - On the River
Charles Wolfe - In Close Harmony: The Story Of The Louvin Brothers
Various Artists - Down Home Country Blues Classics
Various Artists - Iowa State Fare: Music From The Heartland
Various Artists - Washington Traditional Fiddlers Project - Vol. II "Generations"

Any Old Time String Band - Bid You Goodnight
Arhoolie CD 433

Kate Brislin-banjo, guitar, bass, kazoo, vocals; Sue Draheim-fiddle, guitar, vocals; Susie Rothfield-fiddle, guitar, bass, vocals; Genny Haley-guitar, banjo, triangle, bass, dobro, vocals; Valerie Mindel-guitar, mandolin, bass, vocals; Barb Montoro-bass, vocals; Will Scarlett-harmonica; Mayne Smith-pedal steel; Hoyle Osborne-piano; Don Slovin-drums; Bill Napier-clarinet; Tony Marcus, Marty Somberg, Eric Thompson-bass vocals on "I Bid You Goodnight."

Turkey Buzzard, Chinquapin Hunting/Dear Companion/Let Me Fall/I Wish I'd Stayed In The Wagonyard/Ma Cher Bƒbƒ Creole/Dixieland One-Step/Home In Pasadena/Long Lost Lover Blues/Valse De Orphelin/I'll See You In C-U-B-A/Free Little Bird/I've Got What It Takes/Hello Stranger/La Valse De Bayou Tƒche/Shady Grove/California Blues/Cowboy Girl/I Made A Big Mistake(Gros Erreur)/Lock And Key/Falls Of Richmond, Camp Chase/La Porte Dans Arriƒre (The Back Door)/Oklahoma Blues/Keep My Skillet Good And Greasy/Farewell Blues/I Bid You Goodnight.

The Any Old Time String Band, doubtless the San Francisco Bay area's most popular traditional string band during the late '70s and throughout the '80s, were less remarkable for their all woman line-up than for their adventurous and eclectic repertoire, great sense of exuberant fun, unusual arrangements of traditional material from all over the map, and their affection for the many kinds of traditional music they performed. All those elements are abundantly present on this CD, which includes both their 1978 Arhoolie and their 1980 Bay album. In the band on the first album, everyone sang and played at least two instruments, and the repertoire drew from fiddle/banjo numbers ("Turkey Buzzard"/"Chinquapin Hunting," "Let Me Fall," "I Wish I'd Stayed In The Wagon Yard"), Cajun songs ("Ma Cher Bƒbƒ Creole," "Valse De Orphelin"), "classic" blues ("Long Lost Lover Blues," with a rousing lead vocal by Genny, and "I've Got What It Takes," with a blistering vocal by Susie), string-band jazz ("Dixieland One-Step," after the Six and Seven-Eighths String Band), vintage pop novelties ("Home In Pasadena" and "See You In C-U-B-A"). The Arhoolie album featured two of the finest vocalists in traditional music early in their recording careers. Susie Rothfield (now Thompson) is a wonderful interpreter of the classic blues repertoire, and a powerful and emotional vocalist on traditional Cajun material, although her Cajun vocals are more evocative to me of Memphis Minnie than Cleoma Falcon. Kate Brislin has gone on from her Any Old Time days to record four classic albums with Jody Stecher for Rounder; her voice remains a wonder; rich, heartfelt, and evocative, on whatever material she tackles.

My two favorites from the first album are "Dear Companion," featuring Kate's haunting lead vocal, and "Free Little Bird," in an arrangement attributed to the Dykes Magic Trio, featuring wailing fiddles from Susie and Sue Draheim and wonderful vocals from Susie and Genny. Susie Rothfield's powerful, Cajun-and blues-drenched fiddle is much in evidence throughout, often in tandem with Sue Draheim, whose style is sweeter, swingier, and jauntier, but no less affecting. By the time the second album was recorded, Barb Montoro had joined as permanent bassist, and Susie and Valerie were no longer with the band. The repertoire became, if anything, even more eclectic, featuring early country standards "Hello Stranger," "California Blues," and "Oklahoma Blues," along with the band's takes on Cajun classics "La Valse De Bayou Teche," "I Made A Big Mistake" ("Gros Erreur"), with Genny's translation and lead vocal, and D. L. Menard's "La Porte Dans Arriƒre," better known to the English speaking community as "The Back Door." "Cowboy Girl" and the western-swingish "Oklahoma Blues" benefit greatly from Sue Draheim's lilting fiddling and, on the latter, her harmony vocals ‡ la The Boswell Sisters with Kate. The band delivers a couple of classic blues from Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey respectively with "Lock and Key" and "Farewell Blues," the first sung by Kate, the second by Genny. Both "Shady Grove" and "Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy" become good time fiddle/banjo workouts with vocals by Genny in the hands of Any Old Time. The album closes, as did most of the band's shows during those halcyon days when they were a regular feature of the Bay Area club and festival scene, with their rendition of the Bahamian hymn from The Pindar Family, "I Bid You Goodnight," with added bass voices from Tony Marcus, Marty Somberg, and Eric Thompson. Good stuff, great fun, a very welcome reissue.
Randy Pitts
Back to Top

Kate Brislin & Katy Moffatt- Sleepless Nights
Rounder CD 0374

Kate Brislin- vocals, rhythm guitar, Katy Moffatt- vocals, Jody Stecher- lead guitar, mandolin.

Sleepless Nights/Sad But True/I Wish It Had Been a Dream/Every Time You Leave/Still Blue/Childish Love/So Sad/Sad Situation/You're Learning/It Takes One to Know One/I'll Take the Blame/Home.

There's so much terrible "country" music on the radio these days (I'm not talking about your local NPR affiliate), sometimes it's hard to remember how primo the genre can be on occasion. There's the further irony that, as far as chops go, nobody can better the Nashville studio scene. Between every banal hook, every simpering salute to pickup trucks and macho swagger, there lies another perfect break, another gleaming crystal rolling down the endless conveyor belt to your nearest Walmart.

And there is so much better out there. Like this CD. Kate, Katy and Jody have paired it down to the essentials here. Two voices, a strummed guitar, tasty elegant guitar and mando leads by Jody. And look what they've picked to sing(four songs from the incomparable Louvins, plus efforts by Harlan Howard, Boudeloux Bryant, and Dave Everly, and two by Katy Moffatt. This CD is a veritable education in harmony, and the instrumental simplicity just puts the singing right out front, every note and nuance immediately available to the ear.

Of course the main thing about music is listening, being enveloped, transported. On this, the basic level, Kate and Katy have the magic. Their voices blend almost like sisters. There might be one(one!!) funny note on the whole disc, and I ain't saying where it is. The two women both have a richness of tone, a clarity of note, that sustains the atmosphere of the album from beginning to end. Nor do they fall into a formula(although mostly they work in the thirds of classic country harmony, they don't remain constantly parallel, using the unison, the slide against the held note, and various embellishments to enrich the basic duet form of which each selection consists.

I don't see much point in picking favorites here(I really like every cut) but among all of them especially the Louvin pieces. Kate and Katy might be the people to do a whole Louvin CD(did the Louvins ever do a bad song?)

And then there's the title cut, "Sleepless Nights." You may or may not know that EmmyLou Harris and Gram Parsons recorded this song during the sessions that resulted in the great Grievous Angel LP ("Love Hurts," "Hickory Wind," etc.). It didn't make the record, for whatever reason, and appeared years later on an LP with a bunch of Parsons/Byrds takes. Like most of their work together, EmmyLou and Gram nail "Sleepless Nights" to the barn door. Kate and Katy show a certain amount of moxie to even do this song, much less to use it as the title cut. They don't put H. and P. to shame, of course, but I think they do them proud.

Wm. N. Hicks
Back to Top

Janette Carter - Living with Memories
Hiltons, Virginia: Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc., 1983

Living with Memories is a story of family; the family just happens to be The Carter Family and the author, Janette, is A. P. and Sara's middle child. The book is short(84 pages) and contains family photographs and Janette's poems and songs interspersed throughout. As she says about two thirds of the way through the book, "...this book is about my life when I was a child and how it feels to be part of a famous family who never felt famous at all."

She writes the story in sections: "Poor Valley" tells of home, both the place(Poor Valley, at the foot of Clinch Mountain in southwest Virginia) and the people, mostly her father's, that she grew up among. "A. P. and Sara Carter" focuses on her parents, their marriage and divorce, and their musical working lives. We learn more about A. P. than Sara because the children lived with him after the divorce. "Gladys and Joe" contains childhood tales of Janette's siblings. "The Singing Carters" provides memories of her parents' and her aunt Maybelle's professional musical lives as The Carter Family. This is the everyday, family side of the business: traveling, rehearsals, glimpses backstage, and the like. "Adult Life and Music" covers Janette's introduction into professional music through her family, her marriages, children, working life, grandchildren, and song writing. "Music at the Store" tells how Janette turned A. P.'s old grocery store into a regular Saturday night gathering place for old-time music, "...a memorial to my family, the Carters, and to their kind of music." Eventually she and her brother Joe built the Carter Family Fold Music Hall as an on-going venue for old-time music.

Living with Memories is of interest to Carter Family fans who'd like to know more about the family. The book will be more informative for readers who are already familiar with the story. It's not a comprehensive introduction to the subject or even a thorough biography of its author, but is a valuable supplementary resource.

The book would also be of interest to someone who wants to read a first-hand account of a childhood in Appalachia during the Depression. Janette Carter tells just how much hard work was needed from the entire family, even the children. Before school the kids fed the animals, drew water from the well, and built fires. The seasonal round of chores included farm work(Janette especially disliked working with tobacco plants because they made her physically ill). Even when they stayed with relatives there were regular chores they were expected to do. Her parents' musical career did not have a huge financial impact because even the hit-record-making Carter Family were not especially well off and the life of hard work remained necessary.

As a social history, the portrait of family relations after A. P. and Sara's separation, at a time when divorce was much rarer than today, is also interesting. The three children lived with their father but Sara lived nearby, at least at first, and would come stay and nurse them through serious illness. The Carter Family continued to record and perform even after the divorce; Janette says, "Music brought about this harmony; music certainly didn't cause their divorce."

In her 50s, Janette Carter decided she wanted to devote "my life here on earth to keeping, or trying to keep, my family's songs alive." She's accomplished this with her music, the Carter Family Fold Music Hall, and this book of memories.

Helen H. Whiting

To order: Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Inc. PO Box 111 Hiltons, VA 24258
Back to Top

Roger Cooper - Going Back To Old Kentucky
Rounder CD 0380

Nine Miles Out of Louisville/Pine Creek/Cauliflower/New Money/Growling Old Man, Fussing Old Woman/Boatin' Up Sandy/Bostony/Warfield/Paddy/Susan's Gone/Morris Allen's Brickyard Joe/Weddington's Reel/Greek Melody/Salt Lick/Something Sweet to Tell/Charleston #1/Snakewinder/Chillicothe Beauty/Portsmouth/Meg Gray/Bumblebee in a Jug/Coon Dog/Jimmy Arthurs/Going Back to Old Kentucky/Bear Creek Hop.

One of the joys of being a reviewer is having recordings like this show up in the mailbox. I've loved Kentucky fiddle music for years and it's wonderful to hear a new (to me, that is) fiddler who carries this important tradition forward in such a competent and loving way.

Roger Cooper grew up in Lewis County in northern Kentucky and got a good dose of fiddling from the time he was a kid. Listening to and playingwith older fiddlers like Bob Prater, "Uncle Joe" Stamper, Jimmy Wheeler, Morris Allen, and, most importantly, Buddy Thomas, gave him a solid traditional foundation. As Cooper says, Buddy Thomas was his "main man," not only teaching him repertoire and technique, but instilling in him a thoughtfulness about his playing that sets him apart from many of Buddy's imitators.

The lead cut on this CD is "Nine Miles Out of Louisville," also the first number on Kitty Puss, Buddy Thomas' only album. Cooper follows it up with 24 more great tunes, at least six learned from Thomas and several each from Jimmy Wheeler, Morris Allen, and George Hawkins. Even when a tune comes from another fiddler, though, Roger Cooper says he thinks about how Buddy Thomas would play the tune. It's a rough row to hoe, trying to play in the style of fiddlers like Thomas. Likewise, the two numbers directly or indirectly from Doc Roberts, "New Money" and "Charleston #1," are bound to be compared to the originals. Cooper's bowing is not as fluid as either of those two masters, but he does an admirable job. And I don't mean to intimate that Cooper is merely copying these versions for I do believe that he has absorbed their playing and puts his own stamp on the pieces. He is a direct link in the tradition.

Looking over the list of titles you will probably find only a few really familiar ones and some that are quite rare outside the immediate area. A few that you think you know could fool you too. "Morris Allen's Brickyard Joe" bears no resemblance to the common "Brickyard Joe" of Doc Roberts, and "Boatin' Up Sandy" is neither of the versions I know. In most parts of the South few jigs are heard, but this area of Kentucky and southern Ohio where Cooper has lived is an exception and two nice jigs are included-"Something Sweet to Tell" and "Growling Old Man, Fussing Old Woman." I find it hard to pick out favorite cuts to highlight because of the overall high quality of the tunes and their execution. I do especially like "Bostony" from Ed Haley by way of Morris Allen, "Warfield," the rolling "Snakewinder" and "Portsmouth," and the busy "Going Back to Old Kentucky" (which Buddy Thomas and Morris Allen called "John Rawl Jamieson").

The fiddling is emotional, highly danceable, and you never feel that it's played too fast or too slow. Cooper's concern for the integrity of the music prevents him from ever overstepping the boundaries of good taste. He lets the tunes speak for themselves, but of course it's only by his considerable effort and under his capable hand that this happens. So often now, the tendency when recording is to overdo anything that can be overdone. Adding more backup musicians, particularly recognizable names that might help sell recordings, seems to be the norm, but it can be the downfall of real old-time music like these beautiful fiddle tunes which need little to provide a setting. Fortunately, this collection is just Cooper accompanied by the guitar of Mike Hall laying down a simple foundation for the fiddle's sprightly dance.

The liner notes provide tremendous insight into the fiddler's thoughts on the music, good background on his life, and information on all the tunes concerning where they were learned, etc. This recording has my highest recommendation. Thank you, Roger, for carrying this tradition, Mark Wilson and John Harrod, for producing the set in a hands-off manner, and Rounder, for backing such an obviously non-commercial and excellent recording.

Bob Bovee
Back to Top

Darby & Tarlton - On The Banks Of A Lonely River
County CD-3503

Tom Darby-guitar and vocals; Jimmie Tarlton-steel guitar and vocals.

Lonesome Railroad/Frankie Dean/Down In Florida On a Hog/Roy Dixon/Little Bessie/I Left Her at the River/Captain Won't You Let Me Go Home/Lowe Bonnie/Maple On the Hill/The Rainbow Division/New Birmingham Jail/After the Sinking of the Titanic/Lonesome In the Pines/The Black Sheep/Little Ola/On the Banks of a Lonely River/Lonesome Frisco Line.
Darby & Tarlton - Complete Recordings
Bear Family BCD 15764
3 CDs and booklet, 1995
84 selections

Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarlton hold a solid position in the pantheon of old-time recording artists of the 1920s and '30s, and rightly so. Their combined voices and guitars forged a unique mixture, soulful and complex, applied to a rich diversity of songs. The two musicians achieved fame in 1927 with the release of "Columbus Stockade Blues" and "Birmingham Jail" by Columbia Records, a back-to-back hit that sold more than 200,000 units and spawned countless cover versions by other musicians. Columbia brought the duo into the studio a total of eight times, recording a repertoire of consistent high quality but varying commercial success. By the time of their final Columbia session in 1930, the Depression had begun eroding record sales for nearly all country artists, and Darby and Tarlton were no exception. They switched allegiance to Victor Records in 1932, but their sales in the 23000 series were pitifully low. After a final stab at recording for the American Record Corporation in 1933, the duo faded into obscurity. By the late '30s Tom Darby had returned to his erstwhile occupation of moonshining while Tarlton did occasional radio spots sponsored by the Goo Goo Drive-In Restaurant in Columbus, Georgia. In the 1960s and '70s, the music of Darby & Tarlton became available to a new generation of listeners on several LP anthologies and two LPs devoted entirely to their music, one on the West German Bear Family label and the other on the Old Timey label, an offshoot of Arhoolie Records of California. A new album by the "rediscovered" Jimmie Tarlton was released by Testament Records, revealing a musician largely undiminished in his abilities. The music of Darby & Tarlton is currently available on two CD collections, the first released in 1994 by David Freeman's County Records. Entitled On the Banks Of A Lonely River, this set contains 17 recordings gleaned from the Columbia sessions of 1927-30, with notes by collector Robert Nobley, who first located and interviewed both Darby and Tarlton in the early 1960s. The songs are sequenced to achieve variety, and the selections represent the major sources of Darby & Tarlton's music: popular and sentimental songs dating back to the 19th century, folk songs and ballads, original lyrics set to traditional tunes, and even one authentic Hawaiian composition, "Little Ola."

Darby & Tarlton's reputation as blues artists is quickly confirmed by the opening track of the CD, "Lonesome Railroad," featuring Tarlton's articulate steel guitar and a moody hummed refrain. Next is "Frankie Dean," a version of "Frankie and Albert," with Darby's soulful lead singing back edby Tarlton's eerie wailing harmonies that imitate and extend the high notes of his guitar. "Down in Florida On a Hog" is a rollicking spoof on the Florida boom years written by Tom Darby and set to the tune of "Lonesome Road Blues," and "Captain Won't You Let Me Go Home" expresses a potent anti-war sentiment. Other performances, including "Lonesome in the Pines" and "Little Bessie" demonstrate the deep emotional tenor that pervades the music. Although few songs by Darby and Tarlton are bonafide blues in a structural sense, their work is infused with the texture and feeling of the blues. The individual contributions of Darby and Tarlton blend into an organic unity that seems greater than the sum of its parts, creating the kind of chemistry that separates real art from mere proficiency. The interplay of voices and instruments is fluid, with flights of improvisation that make other white blues singers, even Jimmie Rodgers, seem staid and predictable by comparison. While the County CD provides consistently fine material, some real gems are inevitable omitted, such as "Slow Wicked Blues" and "Sweet Sarah," classics of the white blues idiom. The Bear Family release omits nothing, as the name indicates. Darby & Tarlton, Complete Recordings appeared in 1995, a beautifully packaged boxed set of three CDs and an LP-sized booklet that includes historical notes by folklorist Ed Kahn, previously unpublished photographs, transcriptions of all lyrics, and a comprehensive discography by Tony Russell. Darby & Tarlton's oeuvre is presented in chronological order, from their first recording for Columbia in 1927 to their final collaboration for ARC in 1933. Also included are solo efforts by Tarlton from 1930 and Victor recordings that Darby made with Jesse Pitts in 1931.

The Bear Family set, with its 84 performances, will no doubt stand as the definitive Darby & Tarlton collection, revealing the full variety of their repertoire--not only folk music, parlor songs and blues, but also topical songs, instrumentals, love songs, novelties, and pop. It is a testament to their remarkable artistry that Darby & Tarlton managed to put their indelible stamp on all of it.

With the relative dearth of CDs that feature old-time music of the pre-Depression era, it seems ironic that a pair of releases by the same artists should appear in rapid succession, and with overlapping material. Yet these two releases do offer the consumer a clear choice: "Shall I spend $70 for the deluxe box and immerse myself in the total Darby & Tarlton experience, or pay the price of a single CD for an excellent distillation of their work?" Financial considerations aside, the Bear Family set is probably best suited for serious Darby & Tarlton enthusiasts or students of old-time music who appreciate thorough historical documentation. Others can't go wrong with the County collection, which offers a satisfying dose of Darby & Tarlton's unique sound. Either way, the listener is in for some fabulous old-time singing and playing.

Marshall Wyatt

Note: Bear Family may be ordered through County Sales.
Back to Top

Deseret String Band - Utah: Songs of Statehood
Okehdokee 96001

Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief/Tittery Irie Aye/Black Hills Waltz-Rattlesnake/Brigham, Brigham Young/Once I Lived in Cottonwood/Come Forward and Pay Your Tithings/Newcastle Hornpipe/Old Hans-Frolie Hohsy/Fast Freight to Helper/Days of '49/Soldier, Soldier/Mormon Cowboy/When the Work's All Done This Fall/Granville Pace/Salt Lake City Blues/Don Jolley Waltz/Oh, Sisters/All Are Talking of Utah/Doc Kemmerer's Favorite.
Video Review
Deseret String Band - Utah: Songs of Statehood Centennial Concert
University of Utah Press
Titles same as above minus Once I Lived in Cottonwood/Days Of '49/Doc Kemmerer's Favorite.

The Deseret String Band (sometimes known as The Bunkhouse Orchestra) was recorded by KUED-TV in a concert to celebrate Utah's centennial, and both the video and CD were the result. The band has been around since 1973 serving up healthy doses of traditional Utah and other western music, as well as southern tunes that fit their style. Currently, members are Ron Kane, Hal Cannon, Tom Carter, Leonard Coulson, and the latest addition, Meghan Merker. Together they create a sound unlike any other string band that I can think of, and they present a varied repertoire of little heard numbers.

For the concert recorded here the Deserets focused on tunes and songs gathered in Utah by 1940s collectors Austin and Alta Fife, Lester Hubbard, and Thomas Cheney, later collecting by Hal Cannon and Stephen Jardine (a former Deseret String Band member), and songs from 78 rpm recordings that relate to Utah. "Salt Lake City Blues" from Tennessee's McGee Brothers, and two cowboy songs from Carl Sprague("Mormon Cowboy" and "When the Work's All Done" are from 1920s discs, as is the tune "Newcastle Hornpipe," slipped in as "a musical tribute to the many early English immigrants to Utah." Other immigrant groups that receive a nod are the Scandinavians, represented by the dance tune medley "Old Hans-Frolie Hohsy," and the Greeks with a traditional tune retitled "Fast Freight to Helper." Helper is a Utah town with lots of Greek miners, and the tune is played on two five-string banjos. And so the tradition grows. Many of the other songs are old-time Mormon songs, as would be expected. Also included is one original song: Hal Cannon's "Oh, Sisters" written from the point of view of a polygamist's wife. It seems stylistically out of place in the set, not having the same feel as the vintage numbers that comprise the rest of the collection.

It would be hard to choose between the video and CD if I were picking only one of the two. The video looks great(beautiful stage set with wagons, saddles, a plow and other suitable props, an appreciative audience, and the band in vintage western attire. For the short breakdown "Rattlesnake," we get to see Meghan Merker do some buckdancing and more of it would have been welcomed. But the CD includes cuts not on the video: "Days of '49," "Once I Lived in Cottonwood," a moving 1860s song of the hardships of early Mormon life, and "Doc Kemmerer's Favorite," which sounds like a fine schottische to me. The band members are individually interviewed on the video (except Ron Kane) discussing the pioneers and their music, how these songs were preserved, and the Deserets' philosophy of music and why they play what they do. It's the sort of thing we used to get more often in liner notes and I'm glad to hear it directly from the performers, even though I've never agreed with the oft-repeated concept again put forth here that "music mimics the landscape."

Some of my favorite cuts are ones the Deseret String Band has recorded once or twice before, such as "Salt Lake City Blues" with its delightful fiddle-mandolin interplay, the tremendous sheep herding song "Granville Pace" which Hal Cannon collected in 1976, and "Black Hills Waltz." A small criticism of the last tune is that the harmony nearly drowns out the melody on the last pass through the tune. As always, I'm particularly struck by Ron Kane's singing, an eccentric approach that is old-time with no punches pulled. Leonard Coulson's natural way with traditional songs makes them so believable and he also does a noteworthy job on the recitation "Come Forward and Pay Up Your Tithings." Some of the singing is a little on the folky side for me; it's not bad, mind you, but not as raw as I like it. Still, it's probably more to the taste of a majority of listeners. Instrumentation is varied and expertly played with fiddles, banjo, harmonica, guitar, mandolin, button accordion, concertina, tin whistle, banjo-guitar, mandocello, and pitchfork. (Did I leave any out?) I would like to know if the traditional striker for the pitchfork is the box wrench as the Deserets play it.

Overall, I think this project, both CD and video, is a more than worthwhile accomplishment. It's a great overview of pioneer music and music that could have been pioneer music in Utah, and it's fun to listen to and watch. Meghan Merker's attractive cover art completes the package.

Bob Bovee
Back to Top

Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard - Pioneering Women of Bluegrass
Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40065

Hazel Dickens-vocal, bass; Alice Gerrard-vocal, guitar; Chubby Wise and Billy Baker-fiddle; Dave Grisman-vocal, mandolin; Lamar Grier-banjo; Mike Seeger-guitar; Fred Weisz-vocal, guitar.

TB Blues/The One I Love Is Gone/Who's That Knocking/Walkin' In My Sleep/Won't You Come and Sing For Me/Can't You Hear Me Calling/Darling Nellie/Coal Miner's Blues/Sugar Tree Stomp/Train On the Island/Cowboy Jim/Lee Highway Blues/Memories of Mother and Dad/Long Black Veil/Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar/Difficult Run/Mommy Please Stay At Home With Me/Gabriel's Call/Just Another Broken Heart/A Distant Land to Roam/John Henry/I Just Got Wise/Lover's Return/A Tiny Broken Heart/Take Me Back to Tulsa/I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling.

We recall playing Hazel and Alice's first LP, Who's That Knocking, one day in 1965 when a friend came in. He listened a bit and then said, "Who is that-the Louvin Sisters?" The weak (and sexist) witticism nevertheless contained a kernel of perception: the listener associated a first hearing of Hazel and Alice with an older tradition of country music rather than with any radical new musical breakthrough. Truth to tell, we have always thought of Hazel and Alice as old-time musicians rather than bluegrassers proper, despite the 'grassy stringband format with which they have most often performed.

Consequently, we were somewhat taken aback at the marketing approach of this CD reissue of Hazel and Alice's 1965 and 1973 Folkways albums Pioneering Women of Bluegrass. Neil Rosenberg's liner notes make a great to-do of Hazel and Alice's blazing a path for today's Alison Krauss, Laurie Lewis, Claire Lynch, and so on, which in retrospect may be the least of the accomplishments of the two.

This CD reissues two sessions Hazel and Alice recorded in 1965 with a wizard backup band: Chubby Wise himself on fiddle, with Billy Baker taking over fiddle for the second session; Lamar Grier on banjo; David Grisman on mandolin; and Mike Seeger and Fred Weisz available off the bench. Only 5 of the 26 titles recorded were strictly bluegrass songs, and one of these was Bill Monroe's unrecorded composition, "The One I Love Is Gone," published by Alice and Hazel under Bill's name. Another 17 titles were gleaned from old-time and hillbilly sources such as the Carter Family, the Callahan Brothers, Bob Wills, J. P. Nestor, and the Louvin Brothers. Significantly, three of the finest songs of the 1965 sessions were two original compositions by Hazel, "Won't You Come and Sing For Me" and "Cowboy Jim," and one by Alice, Hazel, Jeremy Foster, and Marge Marash: "Gabriel's Call."

While it is indeed true that in 1965 Hazel and Alice were the only women fronting their own band and playing bluegrass, they were most likely also the only women studying and rearranging Carter Family chestnuts for stringband performance, and as immersed in the Anthology [of American Folk Music] and reel-to-reel dubs of 78 rpm hillbilly discs as any of the male string bands of the Great Folk Scare. While Hazel and Alice's performances of bluegrass songs tended to the straight and narrow, their creativity as singers and arrangers blossomed gloriously in their treatment of old-time material.

The Hazel and Alice titles which have stood the best test of time are their old-time covers and their own compositions. No literalists, Hazel and Alice were daring in their treatment of Carter Family songs, tightening up tempos, moving the harmony voice from alto below the melody to Hazel's dazzling tenor, and adding modern mando and banjo arrangements of the instrumental breaks. Consequently, no finer revival performances exist of "Lover's Return," "Just Another Broken Heart," "Darling Nellie Across the Sea," and "A Distant Land to Roam," than these great renditions featuring Alice's sensual Sara Carter-like alto lead and Hazel's edgy, emotional tenor. The bluegrassers are welcome to Alison Krauss and her babydoll vocals as long as we of the old-time camp can still lay claim to the womanly glories of Hazel and Alice's harmony singing.

Were Hazel and Alice's path in music history to lead up only to the likes of Alison Krauss, their footnote would be small indeed. But in the excellence of their original compositions on this CD, we can already hear that Hazel and Alice were in 1965 on a far more arduous and significant journey, that of discovering within themselves the fire of creativity that would flame into their great Rounder albums of the 1970s. As they shifted from bluegrass and old-time arrangements to composing their own music, they became our greatest songwriters to work solidly within a traditional country aesthetic, Hazel with socially aware songs as heartrending as old hymns, Alice with more introspective songs that told a woman's heart. "Working Girl Blues," "West Virginia My Home," "Mama's Gonna Stay," "You Gave Me A Song," "Old Calloused Hands"...the masterworks rolled on.

This welcome Smithsonian reissue has both glories of its own, and tantalizing shadows of careers yet to unfold. If Hazel and Alice were pioneering anything, it was themselves.

Jon and Marcia Pankake
Back to Top

Michael Doucet - Learn to Play Real Cajun Fiddle
Homespun Tapes, Ltd., 1987

The first recordings of Cajun music I managed to find featured "Bois-Sec" Ardoin and Canray Fontenot. This record remained an unappreciated curio for many years, because at times there are barriers to overcome in order to appreciate music of other cultures (i.e., "the tunes all sound the same"). One aid to leapfrogging this hurdle is by listening to Learning to Play Real Cajun Fiddle with Michael Doucet. Doucet knows a great deal about Cajun music; over the course of 6 cassettes he gives us the history of 22 tunes, talks about the artists and the versions they recorded, (just getting the pronunciations helps), plays the tunes in various styles, and (most importantly), demonstrates the art of seconding, or playing backup.

Many people familiar with the over-the-top, rocking performances Michael Doucet puts in with Beausoleil might not think him the best choice for this project. Beausoleil, however, started out as an acoustic group, (with the electronic/Gulf Coast rock material directed to the band's alter-ego, Cocteau). In addition to collecting and learning from 78 rpm recordings of Cajun music, Michael has documented many of the older musicians, (people such as BeBe Carriere and Hector DuHon). Several recordings issued in the '70s feature these players (and others) with Michael seconding them on various instruments.

The liner notes state that the course is designed for players of all levels, however people already familiar with playing the fiddle will bypass much of it. Michael walks through each tune, playing it at a moderate speed, then slowing it down to examine it. Each line is discussed in order to state where a particular phrase may have originated or demonstrate the particular characteristics of fiddle playing which it reveals; (slides, trills, unisons, blues notes, etc.). Then he plays the tune at a normal speed, double-tracking himself on either fiddle or accordion. The twin fiddle pieces are especially impressive. The accompanying manual has the standard notes for the tunes, and includes some of his variations, (usually surrounded by text to make identification easier). There's a counter box beside each selection so that you can annotate the location on the tape.

The tune selection is very good and draws from many notable artists. From the repretoire of Dennis McGee comes "Devilliers Two-Step," "Adieu Roza" (and the tune it developed into, "Les Flammes d'Enfer"), "Kolinda" (McGee entitled this "Madame Young"), "La Valse Du Vacher" and the "Reel A Dennis McGee." Lawrence Walkers crowd-pleasing "Bosco Stomp" and "Petit Jean Peut Pas Danser," ("Johnny Can't Dance") are included. A number of selections recorded by the Balfa Brothers are present; "La Valse de Grand Bois," "Lacassine Special," "J'ai Passe Devant Ta Porte," and the "Two-Step A Will Balfa." One of my favorite tunes, the "Perodin Two-Step" is also included. This old tune sounds very French Canadian to my ears.

This course is a great start for someone interested in learning to play this music. Doucet has produced a combination tune book, tutor, and upbeat demonstration of what it takes to produce the Cajun sound.

Paul Mitchell
Back to Top

Skip Gorman - Lonesome Prairie Love
Rounder 0359 CD 1996 (65:26)

Skip Gorman-vocals, guitars fiddles, mandolin, mandolin-banjo; Connie Dover-harmony vocals; Jeff Davis-banjo; Mark Graham-harmonica; Nancy Katz-bass; Jeremiah McLane-accordion, piano; David Surette-bouzouki, guitar; Roger Williams-dobro.

Colorado Trail/I'd Like To Be in Texas/Tough and Wild/Brazos River Song/Rye Whiskey, Grigsby's/Snag-toothed Sal/Cross-Eyed Gal/Maid of Argenta/The Lonely Cowboy/My Old Waddy Pal/Sally Goodin/The Night Guard/Mexicali Rose/Border Affair/Pretty Pauline/Longside the Santa Fe Trail/Kissing on the Sly/Pinedale, Black Hills (Waltzes).

I have a very short list of my favorite living singers of cowboy songs. Glenn Ohrlin tops the list, and it includes such stalwarts as Bob Bovee, Steve Cormier, and Ron Kane (my list of deceased favorites is too long). Another name that has graced this list for some time is the gifted and hard-working New Hampshirite, Skip Gorman. His successful 1994 CD A Greener Prairie was only a promise of the treats in store, as it turns out. Gorman has worn many hats, quite successfully I might add, in his long musical career: Irish fiddler, old-time string-band performer (with the Deseret String Band), contradance fiddler, bluegrass mandolinist and singer, brother duet performer. But perhaps his truest calling is that of interpreter of cowboy songs, tunes, and lore. I had the great pleasure of hosting him on my showcase stage at the 1996 Festival of American Fiddle Tunes and he put on a complete show: songs, tunes, vintage instruments, entertainment, and a great costume, regaling all of us present. All of these traits are present on this CD, though his outfit is visible only on the booklet rear cover. Skip has chosen some wonderful western-oriented material for this CD and has programmed it well. For the most part, he has chosen older style accompaniment, with a lovely sounding Gibson archtop guitar that is the perfect instrumental sound to back up his great voice. His singing style . . . well, lets say that this Easterner has done a lot of homework. His vocal inflections, phrasing, dialect are all perfect. And he is not merely mimicking the older, traditional cowboy singers; Skip has assimilated these features into his cowboy persona. It sounds natural. Skip also has gathered a sympathetic cast of characters to help him pull off this cowboy deal. Arrangements are (usually) subtle and understated, fitting for the old artistically conservative cowboys whose music I love, rather than their Hollywoodish counterparts and their imitators who litter the public radio airwaves these days. Okay, okay, there are a couple of things I think are blemishes on this near-perfect recording. I did not care for how the bouzouki or the piano were used ( I don't imagine too many of them out on the prairies, arroyos, and plateaus, in fact(though cowboy fiddlers did use piano backup [cf. Kenner Kartchners home recordings, for example], the style was not like it is presented here!), though if I don't tell you where they are used, you might not even notice them. All in all, Gorman spins a beautiful web of cowboy life and song. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. Though he is a great singer, he also is a great fiddler. This man knows how to back up a song, no doubt due to his tuition in the world of bluegrass, but he certainly can play the old-time fiddle too. The Eck Robertson medley of "Rye Whiskey" and "Grigsby's Hornpipe" are exquisitely executed in the old-time cross key of AEAC#. Skip innovates a bit, but stays true to his western theme, with Eck's variations on "Sally Goodin," but performed in the more modern Texas style of Orville Burns. Its cool! It works. Skip ends up the CD with delightful waltzes from Arizona's Kenner Casteel Kartchner, "Pinedale" and "Black Hills." Skip has done a great job in selecting songs, ranging from the humorous, unaccompanied "My Cross-Eyed Gal" that he learned from Nate Brown to the movie-cowboy pop hit, "Mexicali Rose," learned from Gene Autry. There are many delightful stops in between too, including a Gorman original that's perfectly in sync with the album's mood, "My Old Waddy Pal." It doesn't hurt that he has included some of my favorite cowboy songs: "Longside the Santa Fe Trail" and "Maid of Argenta" are in my top ten, primarily because I love the versions sung by Gorman's old compatriot, Ron Kane; and Arthur Miles' mournful "The Lonesome Cowboy." I would love to have heard Skip attempt Miles unusual throat singing, but his (Skip's) yodeling more than suffices. This is a successful recording on several fronts. First and foremost it is wonderfully produced and contains strong music. It is faithful to the spirit and style of traditional music without mimicking it(no condescension. It should appeal to old-time fans as well as fanatics of cowboy material.

Kerry Blech
Back to Top

Paul & Win Grace & Family - Dance Upon the Earth
Wellspring CS4905-D

Dance Upon The Earth/Susanna Gal/White Buffalo/Turn Your Radio On/Autumn Harvest/We Shall Not Give Up The Fight/In the Cradle of the Moon/Crossing the Water/Johnny Whistletrigger/Nail That Catfish To A Tree/Hillcrest Mine/Song of Harriet Tubman/Wave The Ocean/Chicken/Who Will Watch The Homeplace?/Barefoot Boy With Boots On/Angel Of The Light.

Win Grace-vocals, autoharps, accordion; Leela Grace-vocals, banjo, bones, spoons, feet; Ellie Grace-vocals, mandolin, guitar, bones, spoons, tambourine, feet; Paul Grace-vocals, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, harmonica.

Paul & Win Grace and Family have been the old-time and folk music mainstays of the Midwest for many years. This is their fifth recording, and their second in CD format. From Columbia, Missouri, they range all over the country in their motorhome, performing for folk festivals, school programs, old-time dances, or anywhere where old-time music is appreciated or needed.

For those of you who know and have heard the Grace family perform over the years, you will not be disappointed by this mix of folk-based singer/songwriter material, their own songwriting efforts, and old-time fiddle tunes and songs. This is a fine recording. However, I must warn those of you who want old-time music in the sense of obscure fiddle or banjo tunes collected in Missouri, you won't find that kind of music here. I have no doubt that Paul & Win over the years have learned a raft of old-time fiddle tunes, and I know that they can definitely hold their own with music and calling at old-time barn dances, but the emphasis on this CD is more toward contemporary folk music (i.e. singer/songwriters), with a sprinkling of old-time tunes. The old-time fiddle tunes are played cleanly and up to speed, the old public domain songs are sung and performed with a great deal of heart-felt respect for tradition. It's just that there isn't enough old-time music here to qualify this as an "old-time" album. If you don't mind some nice arrangements of folk-based singer/songwriter material, or the chance to hear some new songs that could pass for old-time folk music, then I'm sure you will enjoy this CD. Paul & Win Grace and Family are never far away from old-time music, in style, structure or spirit.

The quality of the recording is excellent and the liner notes are good, more than adequately describing the sources and the tunes. I liked the line "All Recordings Are Guaranteed" in their little order form/newsletter. Paul & Win have always been very particular about details, and it shows.

Win has always played piano accordion (even when it wasn't cool to play accordion of any kind), and autoharp in the newer diatonic style. Paul has been the fiddler, mandolin, and guitar player. Paul and Win's act always consisted predominately of vocals, and is family-oriented. When daughters Leela and Ellie were very young, their contribution to the show was their clogging routines, some singing, playing bones, spoons and limberjacks. What has changed over the years is that now Leela and Ellie, in their late teens, are more equal participants with their banjo and mandolin playing. They still do show-stopping clogging routines, but now they compose their own dances. Leela learned how to play clawhammer banjo from Cathy Barton and she has proved to be a good student. Her strong clawhammer banjo playing can be heard throughout this CD. Ellie does a fine job on mandolin or guitar. When she plays, she frees up Paul to play more of his fiddle or harmonica. There's more harmonica on this album than on previous ones, and it's good to hear more of Paul's lively fiddling. Usually Win plays accordion on old-time tunes, playing melody as well as bass with interesting runs and a strong underlying chordal structure. When the Grace family get cooking on old-time fiddle tunes, people just have to get out on the floor.

Leela's and Ellie's singing is clear, pitch-perfect, and expressive. "Soaring" is a word that comes to my mind. They sing like a couple of birds, that is, in a very natural and enthusiastic manner. Ellie's voice, especially, has matured. She has developed a nice expressive "edge." Add Paul and Win's singing, and you have a lush four-part harmony that can be used on traditional as well as newer folk-influenced material. Paul and Win, even back in the old days, have always included the newer material of the singer/songwriters that they admired. Of the 17 cuts on this CD, 12 are composed. "Nail That Catfish To A Tree" by Steve Rosen of the Volo Bogtrotters is one of those tunes on the Top 40 of old-time tunes in the Midwest. Albert Brumley's "Turn Your Radio On" gives the Grace family a chance to sing a gospel song with that marvelous harmony of theirs. They do a nice job on "Crossing The Water" by Bill Staines. "Johnny Whistletrigger" is really "Run, Johnny, Run" with new words by Bob Dyer, a singer/songwriter from the Columbus, MO area. It is based on the stories told by John D. Hurt, a Civil War Confederate veteran who settled in Boonville, Missouri, after the war. "Hillcrest Mine" by James Keelaghan is about the worst mining disaster in Canadian history. "Who Will Watch the Homeplace?" by Kate Long was nicely done. I liked the ambience with the accordion. The title cut, "Dance Upon the Earth" was written by Marie & Sheila Burns.As for the songwriting contributions of Leela and Ellie, Ellie sings her own song, "Autumn Harvest." I've used it as a good "fall" song in October on my radio program. Leela wrote "In the Cradle Of The Moon, " a lullaby. She also wrote "Song of Harriet Tubman," "White Buffalo," and "Angel of the Light."Leela and Ellie sang a South African freedom song, "Freedom Is Coming," on the last CD. They continue that exploration with "We Shall Not Give Up The Fight" on this CD. The traditional and public domain tunes include "Susanna Gal"; "Barefoot Boy With Boots On" uses the "When the Work's All Done This Fall," "C-H-I-C-K-E-N," and "Wave the Ocean, Wave The Sea"--a neat tune and my favorite of the old-time tunes on this CD.

In many ways, this CD represents a culmination. Many of us always look forward to the time when we can play an instrument the way we'd like to, sing the songs we like, find others to play music with or to do the things we've always dreamed of doing. It sounds to me like Paul & Win Grace and Family have arrived. Leela and Ellie are all grown up. Their singing and instrumental styles have matured. However, rumor has it that Ellie is playing the fiddle now. Could it be that a twin fiddle string band is the next metamorphosis for this group? If so, perhaps they'll play more old-time string band music on their next recording.

Pat Walke

To order: Paul & Win Grace And Family, 11990 Barnes Chapel Rd., Columbia MO 65201; 573-443-2819.
Back to Top

In Close Harmony: The Story Of The Louvin Brothers
by Charles Wolfe
University Press of Mississippi, 1996, Jackson, Mississippi (no CIP data)
138 pages, photographs, appendix, select bibliography

Charles Wolfe prepared the excellent booklet notes for the eight-CD complete set of Louvin Brothers' studio recordings, similarly titled In Close Harmony, on Bear Family (BCD 15561), several years ago. It is apparently the first in a projected American Made Music Series, edited by blues scholar and writer David Evans. This work amounts to an expanded version of Dr. Wolfe's original text, especially in the early part of the book, where he adds a discussion of brother-style duet singing and a short history of country and gospel traditions in the Sand Mountain area of northern Alabama which was the Louvins' home. Much of the remainder repeats biographical material found in the original notes. A discussion of the Louvins' recordings makes more sense for CD album notes than it does here unless, of course, you already own the Bear Family set and can hear the performances under discussion. But then you'd have the original notes too, wouldn't you? To compound the irony, the acknowledgments refer you to the Bear Family notes if you want to see a complete Louvin Brothers discography!

Photos in the original record notes are more numerous, reproduced in color when appropriate, and are generally larger and better reproduced than those in the book. A few photos were not in the original CD notes. On page 44, one is reproduced in reverse, making Charlie and Ira appear to be left-handed. There is no index.

In Close Harmony, the book, retails for $40.00, or $16.95 softcover, a heavy price for a book with fewer than 150 pages. Even though the Bear Family set costs around $160, I suggest that it's the better buy.

Dick Spottswood
Back to Top

The Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association Guide to Running a Fiddle Contest
by Bill Shull

Missourian Bill Shull has written two very useful guides for anyone wishing to either administrate or "run" a fiddle contest or to learn to be a good judge at a fiddle contest. I am sure many OTH readers have attended these events as contestants but have not been concerned with, or involved in, the innumerable details that arise while judging or administering a fiddle contest. Bill Shull is obviously a veteran judge and adminstrator, and his organization and attention to detail makes these guides extremely practical.

These guides are unassuming in form and manner. The guide "books" are xeroxed 8-1/2" x 11" pages bound in plastic report covers. Shull begins with a word of caution to the reader: "Remember, there are few hard and fast ‘rules' for running a contest, and each contest has to work out its own best system by trial and error." Shull writes in a shoot-from-the-hip approach that is both humorous and colorful. For example, in giving a little background to the fiddle contest, Shull seeks to dispell the myth of the typical country bumpkin fiddler by proclaiming, "I've seen doctors, lawyers, professors, and millionaires on the fiddle contest stage; then again a few fiddlers have been shot or died in jail, and deserved it."

I enjoy the humor Shull brings to the guides(statements like "ninety percent of the fiddlers who regularly compete in contests barely break even," are obviously not based on exit polls of fiddlers at every contest in Missouri). Rather, the guides are written as if Bill Shull were sitting across the kitchen table from us, and I welcome this casual approach. If nothing else, it adds fun and liveliness to what could be a painfully boring list of details and directions.

The most enjoyable part of the guides are the many fiddle contest anecdotes that Shull has woven in to richly illustrate the narrative. For example, when emphasizing the importance of judging only the fiddling and not the sound, he tells of a CA (Contest Administrator) in Missouri who forgot to provide a sound system: "...She scavenged a battery-powered bull-horn, and held this splendid piece of acoustic technology in front of the fiddle for the first three contestants. Then her arm got tired, and she propped the bull-horn up on the scorer's table; the rest of the fiddlers had to play sitting down at the table." Shull's point is that the judges had to judge the fiddling the best they could under such adverse circumstances. Shull should continue to write up these anecdotes! He must have plenty to tell from his years of involvement in the Missouri contests.

The heart of the subject matter in these guides is dealt with in an extremely organized and careful method. In the beginning of the guide for judges, Shull again begins on a cautionary note: "Until you actually judge a few contests, see some really bad results, second-guess yourself, have a few fiddlers yell at you ... you don't really gain an appreciation for what it is you are supposed to be doing." But then Shull neatly lays down general concepts and guidelines to help get the future judges started, and spends pages dissecting the science of judging using typical terms from score sheets. There is long discussion of terms like execution, pitch, tone, rhythm, the problematic term "danceability," the difference between tempo and speed, and subjective categories such as variation/creativity, difficulty of tune, authenticity and expression. Shull delves into each of these categories with good solid advice and some consideration of the difficult and squirrely nature of these categories when applied to traditional fiddle playing. He also gives good advice for preventing a rise in score throughout the contest. Shull admits he has seen this phenomenon (although no one has been able to explain why), that helps perpetuate the belief that fiddlers playing later in the contest will be given higher marks.

The guide to running a contest overlaps the judging guide somewhat, but its focus is on finding a good judge. This guide also covers considerations such as physical setup, sound, fliers, emcees, rounds of play, registration, divisions, scoresheets, and prizes. One of the best sections of this guide discusses the rules the administrator will have to have in place for the contest. Shull mentions many rules that people may not think of, such as establishing policy in a "broken" performance, as when a string breaks or a fiddle peg pops out in the middle of a tune. He even provides a sample list of rules he has found to be "workable and fair," but includes an important admonition with the list: "I added this sample rule sheet with a great deal of hesitation ... since one of the great glories of fiddle contests is the variety of their formats." In refusing to preach about the "best" or "only" way to run a fiddle contest, Shull proves his thorough understanding of the diverse nature of these contests.

As these guides were written in Missouri, there is an unavoidable regional slant to them. For this very reason, country music scholars may be interested in the guides as a resource on the rich tradition of midwestern fiddling. Yet I would like to point out that the "variety of formats" that Shull mentions varies even more widely across the country. For example, Shull discourages preregistration through the mail as an "unnecessary administrative burden," but some of the largest fiddle contests in North Carolina and Virginia use this method with positive results. (Of course I've also heard numerous tales of people performing under someone else's name!) These larger contests usually have the fiddlers play only one tune instead of the "hoedown, waltz and tune of choice" format that Shull describes. In New England fiddle contests, another style division is usually offered called "Ethnic" to address the many varieties of fiddling that have taken hold in that ethnically diverse area of the country.

With the understanding that these Missouri contests may not entirely reflect the fiddling contests in your part of the country, I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who is considering running or judging a fiddle contest to purchase these useful and entertaining guides.

Amy Davis

To order: Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association, 1994 & 1996. P.O. Box 7423, Columbia, MO 65205
Back to Top

The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters - The Galax Way
Heritage CD 116 1995 72:52

Greg Hooven-fiddle; Peco Watson-banjo; Dennis Hall-guitar; Mike Brown-guitar; Dallas Hall-mandolin; Dale Morris-bass.

Western Country/Bravest Cowboy/Train On The Island/Darling Corey/Logan County Blues/ Polly Put The Kettle On/Cannonball Blues/Those Cruel Slavery Days/Johnny's Gone To War/John Brown's Dream/Cherokee Rose/Cider Mill/Sugar Hill/Buffalo Gals/Whiskey Before Breakfast/Red Rocking Chair/Fortune/Davey, Davey/Texas Gales/Greenback Dollar/Black Eyed Susie/Old Jimmie Sutton/God Gave Noah the Rainbow Sign/Keep On The Sunny Side/Ida Redd/Old Gospel Ship/Chicken Reel/Sally Ann.

A hype sheet was enclosed with the review copy of this CD, but I somehow managed to lose it before reading it. But never you mind, as the stellar reputation of this fine old-time aggregation had trickled out all the way to my home in the Great Northwest. By coincidence, I first listened to this disk last Saturday night, which also was the finals night at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention in far away Virginia. I soon heard that the NBB Bogtrotters had taken first place once again in the old-time band competition, for the fourth consecutive year. And their fiddler, Greg Hooven, had once more won the old-time fiddle blue ribbon. Those facts alone may be enough to entice you to purchase this CD. Even if they had not won anything though (which after listening, I would find extremely hard to imagine), the musical quality would be enough to make you buy it. It cooks. These guys are not winning just by their name either, they can play. The historical Bog Trotters (in the '30s: Davy Crockett Ward, Dr. Davis, Eck Dunford, Fields Ward, and Wade Ward) won at the very first Galax convention in 1935 and were dominant both as a band and individually for many years. They also were recorded shortly thereafter for the Archive of Folk Song, Library of Congress). These new Trotters are no slackers, winning as many ribbons as their namesakes. All they need is for Alan Lomax to knock at their door! The new band's sound is quite different from the old 1930s Ward Family and friends, though. They owe as much soundwise to the great bands of in-between generations, such as those fronted by famous regional fiddlers like Whit Sizemore, Kyle Creed, Otis Burris, Earnest East, and Benton Flippen. This is the big band sound, with two guitars, bass, and rhythm mandolin to go along with clawhammer banjo and a slippery but powerful fiddle. The NBB Bogtrotters create a sound as good as any of the aforementioned ensembles, with the relentless rhythm section that allows for some creativity from brilliant young (27) fiddler, Greg Hooven. His able sidekick up front is banjoist Peco Watson. They have that tell-tale sound, one that identifies them as from their part of the Blue Ridge. This isn't just hell-bent-for leather dance music though, as these cats can change speeds and moods with great success. I especially enjoyed the finger-picked guitars on some cuts, most notably on "Cannonball Blues." Unfortunately, just who is out front has not been identified for us. Mike Brown is mentioned in the notes as being a frequent prize winner on guitar, so let us award him the kudos. Another band member whom I would like to single out for special attention is one of my favorite singers in the Blue Ridge, Dale Morris. He has a few chances here to change the pace with his lovely songs. I think another person also has some lead vocal duties, but he is unidentified in the notes. One of my all-time favorite Fields Ward songs, "Those Cruel Slavery Days," gets a straight forward unabashed reading here. It is so great to hear this. Although I hate to relate hearsay in a review, I must make note that before I had listened to this disk, a couple of my acquaintances had made some comments about some modernisms that seem to appear in Mr. Hooven's fiddling from time to time. I must say that on repeated listening I did not hear anything remotely resembling rock and roll coming from his instrument. On the contrary, I felt that his playing was consistent with a long tradition of great players from the Galax area, with a lot of subtle ornamentation and a nice mixture of long strokes and shorter, notier bursts, garnished with some very well-placed bluesy licks. This is a powerhouse band, being a fine present-day representative in a long line of Galax powerhouse ensembles. I think the future is in fine hands for a long time to come.

Kerry Blech

To order: Heritage Records, Rt. 3, Box 290, Galax, VA 24333
Back to Top

Tim O'Brien with The O'Boys - Red On Blonde
Sugar Hill SHCD-3853

Tim O'Brien-fiddle, mandolin,vocal; Scott Nygaard-guitar; Mark Schatz-bass, clawhammer banjo, vocal; Charlie Cushman-bluegrass banjo; Jerry Douglas-Hawaiian, resophonic & lap steel; Kathy Mattea, Mollie O'Brien, Glenn Zankey, Celeste Krenz, Bob Tyler-vocal; Steve Cohn-accordion; Mark Graham-harmonica; Larry Atamanuik-drums.

Se–or/Tombstone Blues/Farewell Angelina/The Wicked Messenger/Father Of Night/Subterranean Homnesick Blues/Everything Is Broken/Man Gave Names To All The Animals/Masters Of War/Oxford Town/Maggie's Farm/Forever Young/Lay Down Your Weary Tune.

You could say that reviewing a CD of Bob Dylan songs performed by a contemporary bluegrass star for this magazine would be about as welcome as trying to get on stage at Elk Creek with an electric banjo. However, when the artist happens to be Tim O'Brien and the CD is as well played and well thought out as Red On Blonde, then a serious adjustment in perspective is in order.

To be quite honest, I have been a great fan of Tim's style and approach to music in general since his Ophelia Swing Band days, and especially through the Hot Rize years and his more recent recordings with his sister, Mollie. Even so, I was not overly thrilled with the idea of this collection and even less prepared for what it contained. Only a few of the 13 cuts can really be considered old-time, the balance being bluegrass, newgrass, or folk, but there are both subtle and obvious references to old-time styles throughout.

All three of the serious old-time numbers are placed end-to-end as if they were meant to stand out from the rest. The first, "Masters Of War," is a stark, spare rendition with only Tim's fiddle and Mark Schatz's clawhammer banjo for accompaniment, a combination which, to me, underlines the message of the lyrics better than any of the folkie versions I remember from the '60s. The others, "Oxford Town" and "Maggie's Farm," are done in full string-band style (to which they are well suited in any case) with Scott Nygaard's solid guitar work adding just the right amount of drive. Incidentally, I found myself paying a lot of attention to Scott's guitar throughout the album, regardless of style.

Some of the other cuts that caught my ear, even though they're not really old-time, were "Farewell Angelina," "Tombstone Blues," and "The Wicked Messenger." In their own ways, they illustrate how strongly Tim has been influenced by the entire spectrum of traditional music and how pervasive it all is in his playing. There are a few cuts that just don't work for me on any level, but I do have to admit that for the first time in 30-odd years, I actually listened to the words of "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

I have to hand it to Tim and his crew, they have taken what seemed to be a bizarre idea and made it work rather well. With help from The O'Boys, Jerry Douglas, Mollie O'Brien, Kathy Mattea and especially bluegrass banjo player Charlie Cushman, Tim has proven once again that he not only supports old-time music, he understands and respects it.

John Currie

To order: Sugar Hill Records PO Box 55300, Durham NC 27717; 919-489-6080
Back to Top

Video Review
Mark Rubin & Kevin Smith - Slap Bass: The Ungentle Art
Ridge Runner Videos RS-01

Toward the end of this 41-minute video lesson, Mark Rubin of the Bad Livers and Kevin Smith spend a bit too much time establishing the need for a slap bass instructional tape. The need proves rather obvious, and this tape fills it quite adequately. Rubin, who possesses an excellent personality for this medium, handles the steel string bass, while Smith addresses the gut string. Together they provide an overview of right hand slap techniques and examples of its effective use.

Perhaps most useful and thorough proves their discussion of set-up issues for slap bass. Rubin discusses the need to buy "solo sets" designed to be tuned high and explains the reasons he uses an adjustable bridge, a tension block, ebony fingerboard, and a plain ole plywood bass. Smith provides a lot of help regarding amplification, especially why a transducer pickup run through a pre-amp or EQ is critical.

Rubin and Smith play off each other to demonstrate the basic circular plucking motion of the single slap and the more complicated double and triple slap methods. With Ridge Runner's Slim Richey and the great Austin musician Erik Hokkanen playing the lead instruments, each bassist gets the chance to show off these methods in action. Some readers of this magazine may regret that the video does not focus simply on the slap bass in old-time music. Ridge Runner, however, aims it for the broadest possible market, such as it is, and thus we get one of two examples from almost every possible genre, including blues, jazz, Norteno, country, rockabilly, western swing, honky-tonk, and bluegrass. The tape includes some very important warnings about conditioning and health issues, but only touches briefly on taste.

Nonetheless, Slap Bass: The Ungentle Art should prove useful to a lot of people, including those already slap-happy. For the neophyte bassist the video will save a lot of time and effort and perhaps forestall career-endangering injury.

Art Menius

To order: Ridge Runner Videos; 84 York Creek Drive; Driftwood, TX 78619.
Back to Top

The Skillet Lickers - Old-Time Fiddle Tunes And Songs From North Georgia
County CD-3509

Gid Tanner-fiddle, banjo, and vocals; Bert Layne-fiddle; Lowe Stokes-fiddle; Clayton McMichen-fiddle; Riley Puckett-guitar and vocals; Fate Norris-banjo.

Rocky Pallet/Rock That Cradle Lucy/Soldier's Joy/Sal's Gone to the Cider Mill/Ride Old Buck to Water/Molly Put the Kettle On/Hell Broke Loose in Georgia/Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss/Liberty/Devilish Mary/Cackling Hen and Rooster Too/Miss McLeod's Reel/Pretty Little Widow/Dixie/Broken Down Gambler/Leather Breeches.

"Well folks, here we are again, the Skillet Lickers, red hot and rarin' to go. gonna play you a little tune this morning, want you to grab that gal and shake a foot and moan." So says Clayton McMichen, introducing the Skillet Lickers' slippy and slidey "Soldier's Joy." You will not be able to disobey. If you have never heard the Skillet Lickers, you absolutely must get this CD: This rasty two- (and sometimes three) fiddle band is exciting, rich, thrilling, and also important. The Skillet Lickers, though they recorded in the '20s and '30s, and were all from Georgia, have, I think, a lot to do with the way string bands from all over are put together today. (This statement is surely too broad to be completely true, but I know the various Skillet Licker reissues that came out in the '70s influenced a lot of people who are playing now, and they are definitely the model, as far as I know, for a string band with more than one fiddle.) If you have heard the Skillet Lickers, and if you have a collection of old reissue LPs, you may want to buy this CD so as to have the fiddling of Lowe Stokes and Clayton McMichen more closely at hand, and perhaps to seed your collection of whatever Skillet Licker CDs will be issued in the future (many, I hope).

The material here is mostly selected from the County LPs 506 and 526, The Skillet Lickers, vols. 1 and 2, which came out around 1973. This CD features the fiddling of Lowe Stokes and Clayton McMichen. Not represented, though included on the LPs, are some great songs ("Big Ball's in Brooklyn," "Watermelon on the Vine," "Bully of the Town,"), some great skits ("Night in a Blind Tiger," "A Corn Licker Still in Georgia"), and some great tunes ("Four Cent Cotton," "Shortening Bread," "Cotton Eyed Joe"). Included on this CD but not on the original County LPs are "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss," and "Miss McLeod's Reel."

The music has been remastered by Rich Nevins, and it sure sounds like a good job to me. I hear the banjo more clearly than I did on the old albums, where it was faint and vague. I also think I hear a bit more separation between the instruments. It's easier to hear the part each instrument plays in the band(except for the fiddles, which are so intertwined you wouldn't want to unravel them.

Half of the notes are by Norm Cohen, reprinted from County 506, and they are quite informative, giving brief biographies of each band member. If there are errors in them, I don't know enough to point them out, so I'm assuming they're correct. You either will buy the CD or already have the record, so you'll be able to read them yourself. The other half of the notes is by Richard Nevins, reprinted from County 526. He describes the fiddle interplay between Stokes and McMichen: Stokes's "finest of gliding bow strokes" influenced McMichen's "jig" style(short, rapid, back and forth bow strokes") so that MacMichen got a little smoother. But not too smooth, we can be thankful, since one of the great things about the Stokes-McMichen duo is the combination of short bow strokes and long ones crossing over each other.

It is a little disappointing that Richard Nevins's notes refer to "Shortening Bread" as an example of a tune on which the third fiddle (Bert Layne) can be heard clearly. "Shortening Bread" was on the LP, but is not found on this CD.

The music itself is wonderful, however. Gid leaps throughout the tunes, pepping them up with vocal and fiddlistic encouragement. Riley's guitar bass runs cross phrases, land on up and down beats, hit surprising half-tones, and anchor the tunes with their clear, round tone. His wonderful singing smooths across the up-and-down fiddle beat. Fate Norris, though it's hard to tell exactly what he's doing on the banjo, definitely adds energetic melody and percussion. Bert Layne (listed in the notes as "possibly" fiddling on many tunes) "possibly" adds richness with his third fiddle. Clayton McMichen and Lowe Stokes, well they are stars of fiddling, of smoothness, of tone, of speed, and of leaving just enough disjunction between their duet phrasings and note choices to give their music almost (but not quite) more tension and excitement than you can stand.

So have you got the message? The Skillet Lickers are essential. Hear them wherever you can.

Molly Tenenbaum
Back to Top

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys - Short Life Of Trouble: Songs Of Grayson And Whitter
Rebel REB-CD-1735

Train 45/Rose Conley [i.e. Down in the Willow Garden]/Joking Henry [i.e. Joke and Henry]/Nobody's Darling [on Earth]/I've Always Been A Rambler/Short Life Of Trouble/Nine Pound Hammer/Handsome Molly/Shout Lula/He's Coming To Us Dead/A Dark Road Is A Hard Road To Travel/On The Banks of Old Tennessee.

At first it might seem odd that Rebel and Ralph would contemplate a tribute to the work of two artists whose recorded work spanned less than two years (1927-29) and produced only 35 published sides. But a glance at the titles will show how many are still familiar staples in the bluegrass age.

As most OTH readers will know, the dynamic half of the original team was fiddler/singer Gilliam Banman Grayson (1888-1930), who brought many important traditional songs to the microphone in the 1920s. None of his songs were originals but most were not recorded by others until later. Such was the force of Banman Grayson's musical personality that his performances gave his material a vigorous and memorable authenticity, reinforcing their status and helping them acquire a permanent place in our consciousness. The Mainers and others re-recorded many Grayson songs after 1935. The remakes joined the originals in becoming childhood favorites of the future bluegrass generation. In Charlie Wolfe's notes, Ralph Stanley himself praises Grayson's 1927 coupling of "Handsome Molly" and "Train 45" which he enjoyed on a wind-up phonograph, concluding that Grayson's "was the prettiest fiddling I ever heard." On this set, fiddler James Price correctly makes no attempt to duplicate the Grayson sound, but he does employ appealing rough and tumble pre-grass techniques, including elements of Curly Ray Cline's old-time approach. The CD session seems to have been an informal one: half of the performances are solos by Ralph; mandolinist John Rigsby provides harmony on others. Favorites of mine include "Train 45," featuring Price's fiddle and one of those spoken asides Banman and Henry were noted for, "Nobody's Darling," not part of the recorded G&W corpus but nicely harmonized anyway, and "On The Banks Of The Old Tennessee." The mis-titled "Joking Henry" tells about poor Joke (Joe here) and his annoyance after being hit on the head with a brick while napping. "Rose Conley" substitutes the phrase "burglar's wine" for "burgundy wine"--I forget if Grayson did that too but I know that Wade Mainer did. Who knows? Maybe burglars had brand loyalties too.

Nice work, Ralph and Rebel. Now let's give County Records a nudge and suggest that a companion compilation of G&W originals would be nice to have too.

Dick Spottswood
Back to Top

Art Thieme -On the River

At the recent Grammy ceremonies, after Pete Seeger won his award, USA Today asked him how it would effect his music career. Pete replied that he didn't have a music career, but that he enjoyed playing music and was fortunate enough to make a living at it. Art Thieme is another brilliant singer, storyteller, story collector and folklorist who falls into that category. In fact, his down home lack of self-promotion has made him a bit of a scarcity on the circuit. But his notebooks are full of songs and stories he personally collected throughout the midwest-a true treasure chest of gems.

We are treated to some of these gems on Art's album, On the River. Inspired by his seven years as raconteur in residence on the steamboat Julia Belle Swain, Art takes us up and down the Mississippi with flair. Songs, stories, banjo, jaw harp, folklore, jolkelore. He's a storyteller's storyteller: just ask Bruce "Utah" Phillips, who learned many a tale from Art.

Art Theme is a superb fingerpicking guitarist. Travis picking and blues licks come easily to him. No slouch on old-time banjo either. And it's all tasteful accompaniment to the most important part: the song.

One of the most refreshing things about the album is that it's a rare, no bells and whistles, honest "unplugged" album. One guy, his voice & instrument. While artists like Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen make millions turning off their electric guitar amps, I wish there was some way to point the listeners to people like Art who have been joyfully unplugged since the 1950s! It's about the stories, the songs, the eras, the history, the romance and the tragedy. It's about real folk music and someone who has dedicated himself to preserving traditions. He even sneaks in an original song, "Rock River Valley" that shows his flair as a contemporary songwriter steeped in tradition.

Art opens with a quick "Mike Fink" story, then unfolds a repertoire of songs, some of which you may have heard before, but these versions have the Mississippi River twists like "Stackerlee," "What Does the Deep Sea Say," and "Waterbound." "The BIG Catfish" is the kind of tall tale that has earned Art his reputation as one of the country's best storytellers. As in his live performances, he sneaks in tall tales as nearly believable facts, until you get home and realize he was pullin' you along.

If you can't take your own trip down the Mississippi, Art will take you via cassette tape. If you want to hear one of the masters at work, listen to On the River. You won't hear it on the radio - Art released this himself on cassette and to date, there's no CD version. but you can play it at home, or in your car, and make believe you're on the Julia Belle Swain.

Cathy Fink

To order: Art Thieme PO Box 117 Peru, IL 61354
Back to Top

Various Artists - Down Home Country Blues Classics
Arhoolie CD 101

Mississippi Fred McDowell-Frisco Line/Lightning Hopkins-Have You Ever Loved a Woman/John Jackson-Going Down In Georgia On a Horn/Lil' Son Jackson-Cairo Blues/Mance Lipscomb-'Bout a Spoonful/Black Ace-Drink On Little Girl/Snooks Eaglin-Country Boy Down in New Orleans/Bukka White-Columbus, Mississippi Blues/Dr. Ross-Shake ‘Em On Down/Robert Pete Williams-Just Tippin' In/Jesse Fuller-Hump In My Back/Big Joe Williams-Brother James/Smoky Babe-I'm Broke and I'm Hungry/R. L. Burnside-Poor Black Mattie/K. C. Douglas-Mercury Blues.

Here is the first in Arhoolie's new "American Masters Budget Series," CD releases of blues and ethnic recordings previously issued by the company on LPs in the 1960s and later. Notes indicate nothing more than from which Arhoolie album each cut was taken, and other available Arhoolie recordings on which the artist can be heard. Certainly the idea is to provide a variety of blues recordings that will interest listeners in purchasing these other Arhoolie albums. I do consider the title, Country Blues Classics, to be a bit misleading. Yes, it is fine blues music-there are no really bad cuts, but not all are "classics" either. And two of the cuts are rather urban: the Lightning Hopkins song with electric guitar and drums (Hopkins is a city player and classified on such on at least one earlier Arhoolie anthology) and Dr. Ross' version of "Shake ‘Em On Down" with amplified harmonica, piano, guitar, and bass.

I'm especially drawn to the Mississippi delta blues style well represented in this collection by Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Big Joe Williams, and R. L. Burnside. On all their songs the singing is emotionally charged and the guitar playing absolutely exciting. K. C. Douglas, another Mississippi player, is a lightweight in this company but was perhaps included because his song "Mercury Blues" was a recent hit for county-western star Alan Jackson. Featured Texas blues selections are the typical Lightning Hopkins cut, Lil' Son Jackson's gentle but effective "Cairo Blues," Black Ace's number with steel guitar played flat (on his lap), a rarity among black players, and Mance Lipscomb, always a delight with his insistent dead-thumb guitar style.

From Louisiana we are given Smoky Babe, and Snooks Eaglin's "Country Boy Down in New Orleans," which sounds to me more like something Fats Domino would perform (did he?) than a rural blues number. East coast players included are John Jackson singing "Going Down in Georgia On a Horn," perhaps learned from Darby and Tarleton's "Down to Florida on a Hog" since John listened to hillbilly records. Georgia native and west coast transplant Jesse Fuller performs the medicine-show-type song "Hump In My Back" as a one-man band with 12-string guitar, harmonica, kazoo, and fotdella, his homemade foot-pedaled bass.

Least "country" in the set is Dr. Ross, and, although his music is definitely roots music, this Detroit performer is only a step away from Chicago style blues. But the majority of this CD is definitely music of the rural South, a form of old-time music that we often forget to include in the old-time category. If you don't know this music, here is a good place to start. Arhoolie did an admirable job of documenting blues in the ‘60s, and this reasonably-priced set is a fine introduction to their archive.

Bob Bovee
Back to Top

Various Artists - Iowa State Fare: Music From The Heartland
Smithsonian/Folkways 40083 CD

The Matney Singers-Silent Singer/Amazing Grace-God Loves You/Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchman-Little Goose Polka/Das Kufstein Lied/Louis and the Blues Review-Scared Of Your Love/Old Fishing Hole/Everett Kapayou-Round Dance Song/Love Song/Dwight Lamb and Lloyd Snow-Virginia Darling/Red Wing/Solis and Solis-Las Tres Mujeres/Maria Chuchena/Deer Creek Quartet-Be Thou My Vision/Foot-Notes-Henry Storoff's Schottische/Emigrant Waltz/Psalms-Ain't No Devil/Go Tell It On the Mountain-Amazing Grace.

This collection was put together as part of the Iowa Sesquicentennial project at the 1996 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife. The groups included here were selected as representatives of various ethnic and traditional communities from which they came. As one might expect, there is certainly a diversity of culture represented on this CD. We hear a family country/gospel group, German polka music, black gospel, a Meskwaki Indian singer, a Mennonite quartet, an old-time fiddler and button-box player, Mexican corrido and jarocho singing, an electric blues band, and Scandinavian dance tunes. There is a bunch of fine music to be heard on this disc, which might also serve as an introduction to many of these performers, many of whom have recorded several albums on their own.

The project's coordinators state as their purpose to represent a cross-section of the community musical traditions that exist in Iowa. So, what we get is a broad cross section of music that really does not examine any of the examples in depth. The performances were all recorded in a studio, according to the notes, "to obtain good recordings of their current repertory." While this type of project has some merit, in this case at least, I see some drawbacks. First of all, the great variety presented here, while possibly painting an accurate picture of the diverse musical traditions that exist in Iowa, may be a little confusing or overwhelming both to the general listener, and to even more discriminating listeners, such as readers of the OTH. I think that I have fairly eclectic tastes, but I found the transition from polka band to blues band to Native American song in a span of ten minutes a bit jarring and hard to follow. Perhaps a more in-depth look at each of the traditions would be somewhat more accessible. Then again, given the amount of energy and money it takes to do a project like this one, maybe we are lucky this CD and others like it are even available.

My other beef has to do with the recording of the artists here. Most documentary recordings I have heard in the past utilize recordings made "in the field" and usually on the performers' home turf. While not always resulting in the highest audio quality, the final product often has an edge that is missing from studio recordings, and the listener may come away with some idea of what a performer sounds like within his or her natural performance context. By contrast, some of the performances here sound restrained and perhaps a little stiff. It seems logical to me to record a polka band at a dance, a gospel group at church service, a fiddler at a square dance or fiddle contest.

Despite these shortcomings, this is a nicely done project. It is well annotated with recommendations for further related reading and lists of recordings by the performers when applicable (although fiddler Dwight Lamb's fine tape available from the Missouri State Old-Time Fiddlers Association was overlooked). Maybe this CD will at least bring some well-deserved attention to the performers featured on it and encourage a more in-depth look at some of the traditions presented here.

Jim Nelson
Back to Top

Various Artists - Washington Traditional Fiddlers Project - Vol. II "Generations"
Northwest Folklife CD

Gary Lee Moore-Sally Ann/Heel Flies/JayDean Ludiker-Trouble on the Nine Mile/Southern Belles From Nashville Tennessee/Ramon Selby-Texas Crapshooter/Clara Murphy-Charmaine/Vivian Williams-Grant Lamb's Jig/The Fairy Waltz/Carol Gaskins-Cowhide Boots/Stan Jackson-Train 45/Jeff Anderson-Peter Kiefer's Waltz/Irene Walters-Brahms Polka/Hank Bradley-Hale's Rag/Elizabeth Foster-Polska i G-mol/Karen England-Yew Piney Mountains/Kaw River/Sheila Everts-Hobo Jig/Art Brandvold-Tennessee Polka/Tony Ludiker-Elmer Jay's Waltz/Say Old Man, Can You Play the Fiddle/Armin Barnett-Rockingham Cindy/Stan Jackson-Big Taters in Sandy Land/Bruce Foster-Walter's Waltz/John Nordmark-Askogen Dansbana Schottish/Arvid Lundin-Homesteader's Jig/Vic Alfredson-Vest Kustens Vals/Marty Dahlgren-Gold Rush/John Whitman-Fisher's Hornpipe/Ragtime Annie/Terry Ludiker-Mikayla's Waltz/Trinidad Marquez-Entre Los Dos.

Listening to this CD is sort of like going to a fiddlers convention. If you want to impart that experience to someone for Christmas, put this in their stocking along with a fifth of Old Peculiar, some wooden auditorium seats, and a wood-chopping contest.

It's a portrait of fiddling in Washington state, and Northwest Folklife has subdivided the experience into various categories: "first generation" fiddlers, meaning older players; "second generation" players, meaning fiddlers who learned in various ways from the older generation of Northwest players; "swing, Texas and progressive influenced" players(players who have both "roots" and "contest" influences; and finally, the "folk revival generation" - players who don't qualify as "rooted," but are good. I guess my biases are showing when I paraphrase the booklet on this last category. Armin Barnett is a "folk revivalist" born in 1948 in Chicago. Hank Bradley too, though he was born in 1940. Gary Lee Moore, born in Oklahoma in 1950, has a fiddling grandfather and "a personal style" which grew out of study with Clark Kessinger, Benny Thomasson, and others. He's a "second generation" fiddler with Texas influence. Unmentioned in the categorization are the great Scandinavian influenced tunes of Nordmark and Alfredson.

It's all no big deal, and I think the folks who wrote the notes just wanted to make some distinctions for the sake of clarification. The Northwest region is notoriously a place of great attraction to many cultural threads. They all brought their musics with them.

Sound quality on the CD is of the field variety, and contrasted remarkably with the studio perfection on the Hartford disc reviewed elsewhere in this OTH. But many of us have cut our ear teeth on cassettes recorded late on some Galax or Clifftop or Brandywine Saturday night. Like our own old field recorded gems, there are some damn fine tunes on this CD.

Bill Hicks

To order: Northwest Folklife, 305 Harrison, Seattle WA 98109 (206) 684-7300.
Back to Top

The Old Time Herald PO Box 61679• Durham, NC • 27715-1679
Phone (919) 286-2041