The Old-Time Herald Volume 6, Number 3

Reviews
Durham Rangers - Public Domain
Durham Rangers - Twenty Years
Farmer's Daughters - Farmer's Daughters
Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land: the Asch Recordings Vol. 1
Keith Hiatt - Songs That Never Grow Old
Grandpa Jones - Everybody's Grandpa
Will Keys - A Banjo Original
The Konnarock Critters - Cornbread and Sweetpeas
Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Mose Rager, and Doc Watson - Legends of Country Guitar
Lil' Rev with Pig Ankle Dave - Uke Town
Larry Long with the Youth and Elders of Rural Alabama - Here I Stand-Elders' Wisdom, Children's Song
Benny Thomasson Fiddle Transcriptions by Peter Martin
John McCutcheon - Sprout Wings and Fly
Brownie McGhee - Born with the Blues
Bruce Molsky and Big Hoedown - Bruce Molsky and Big Hoedown
Arnie Naiman and Chris Coole, with Kathy Reid-Naiman - Five Strings Attached With No Backing
Frank Quinn - If You are Irish
The Rhythm Rats - I Believe I'll Go Back Home
Don Stover and Mac Martin - Live at The Moose
Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers - A Corn Licker Still in Georgia
Cory Webster, Lewis Downey, Richard McClane, & Tom Smart - Down in Utah
Various Artists - Anthology of American Folk Music
Various Artists - Fiddle Jam Sessions
Various Artists - The Fiddlers of Eastern Prince Edward Island
Various Artists - The Fiddlers of Western Prince Edward Island
Various Artists - Mexican-American Border Music - Vol. IV; Orquestas Tipicas "Pioneer Mexican-American Dance Orchestras" 1926-1938
Various Artists - Mexican-American Border Music - Vol. V; Orquestas de Cuerdas "The End of a Tradition" 1926-1938
Various Artists - A Musical Journey-The Films of Pete, Toshi & Dan Seeger 1957-1964
Kilby Snow, Dock Boggs, Tommy Jarrell, and Roscoe Holcomb - Shady Grove: Old Time Music from North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia
Various Artists - The Rose Grew Around The Briar
Various Artists - Times Ain't Like They Used To Be
Various Artists - A Treasury Of Library Of Congress Field Recordings


Durham Rangers - Public Domain
1997 cassette

Mike Fishback-fretless banjo, fiddle, guitar, slide guitar, vocals; Carl Jones-fiddle, banjo, guitar; Ken Bloom-guitar, slide guitar, fretless six-string banjo.

Camp Meeting on the Fourth of July/One More River to Cross/L'Ann&e de de Secont Set/Texas/Bird Dog Blues/Logan County Blues/Suppertime/Les Blues du militaire/Worried Life Blues/Backstep Cindy/Angel Band/Hell Broke Loose in Georgia.
Durham Rangers - Twenty Years
1995 cassette

Michael Fishback-fretless banjo, fiddle, guitar, vocals; Jon Newlin-fiddle, guitar, vocals; Tim Wells-guitar, banjo, harmonica, vocals.

The Rush and Pepper/Chère Bassette/Shortening Bread/Blood Red River/Puncheon Floor/Warring Cats/Both the Same/Fine Times at Our House/See See Rider/Dinah.

The common denominator of these two tapes, obviously, is Mike Fishback. Mike came to the Durham, North Carolina area around l972, brought there partly by the rumor of a "good music scene" or somesuch, and the closeness, as well, of the Appalachians, the fiddlers conventions, the "heart of old-time" as it was then. Over the long span from then till today, Mike has pretty much kept up the constant gigging in the Triangle area, building his chops and his interests, doubtless discovering as anyone who tries to make even some of their living playing does that a varied set is appreciated by more folks than just one thing or the other. Also discovering, in himself, passions for not only fiddle and banjo tunes, but for blues and cajun idioms as well.

As the liner notes to Public Domain point out, few bands could execute this wide range of "roots musics," and let alone do it without blending it all together into some sort of Paul Simonized concoction where the main fun is to figure out which brush stroke originated in Basile, which in Toast. The Rangers do pull it off pretty well - each root distinguished and respected. My personal favorites on both albums are the cajun songs, mostly lovely, slow, traditional pieces sung with real panache by Fishback. The tunes, however, with the particularly able help on Public Domain of Carl Jones are very well played and fun to listen to.

You probably won't find either of these cassettes at your record store. They are locally produced, hands-on products with real photos hand affixed to the j-cards. But then the music is just that as well - hands-on, home-made. On Public Domain, Carl's two beautiful kids sit grinning on a piano bench in the background; Twenty Years features a photo that just might have been taken at some late fall barbeque in these parts, judging from the way the boys are grinning at something mysterious in the foreground - a 300 gal. cooker mebbe??

My point is, these two cassettes document the real stuff - old-time music as it is, as it lives, in its urban environment, still entirely accoustic after all these years. I enjoyed them both.

Wm. N. Hicks

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Farmer's Daughters - Farmer's Daughters
Heritage CD 1282

Susan Gleason-guitar, vocals; Trish Kilby-clawhammer banjo; Becky Barlow-bass, hammered dulcimer, vocals; Helen White-fiddle, guitar, vocals.

Cotton-Eyed Joe/Little Sadie, Sail Away Ladies/Bring Back My Blue-Eyed Boy to Me/Margaret's Waltz/Mississippi Sawyer/Rose of My Heart/June Apple/Alabama Waltz/Miss McLeod's Reel/Sugar in the Gourd/Fair and Tender Ladies/Old Molly Hare/Cold Frosty Morn.

Variety is the key word in describing this CD. Hot fiddle tunes, waltzes, harmony styled folksongs, and hammered dulcimer music are featured in a nice sampler from the Farmer's Daughters. Led by Susan Gleason of the Fries, Virginia area, the group finished this project just prior to their musical journey to France and Germany this past June.

Categorization is often difficult, and it is with this recording. It's basically traditional, but there are some modern folk influences especially with the singing. Old-time purists might object to some of the arrangements and the lack of rural edge in the harmonies.

I believe that this CD has considerable potential as a bridge for people new to old-time music. It is well recorded and technically sound with a tight cohesive band sound, and a variety of playing and singing that would appeal as a sampler. This was probably a goal the group wanted to achieve in preparation for their overseas trip to promote Southwest Virginia tourism and old-time music. My top picks include "Rose of My Heart," "Miss McLeod's Reel," and "Old Molly Hare," with its strong banjo-fiddle interplay.

Overall this is an above average first effort from a group with lots of talent.

To order: Farmer's Daughters, 1804 Taylor's Chapel Rd., Fries VA 24330. 540-744-7434.

Dale Morris

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Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land: the Asch Recordings Vol. 1
Smithsonian Folkways SF CD 40100

Woody Guthrie-vocal, guitar, mandolin, harmonica; Cisco Houston-harmony vocal, guitar; Sonny Terry-harmonica; Bess Hawes-harmony vocal.

This Land is Your Land/Car Song/Ramblin' Round/Talking Fishing Blues/Philadelphia Lawyer/Lindbergh/Hobo's Lullaby/Pastures of Plenty/Grand Coulee Dam/End of the Line/New York Town/Gypsy Davy/Jesus Christ/This Land is Your Land (alternative take)/Do-Re-Mi/Jarama Valley/Biggest Thing Man Has Ever Done/Picture From Life's Other Side/Jesse James/Talking Hard Work/When That Great Ship Went Down/Hard, Ain't It Hard/Going Down the Road Feeling Bad/I Ain't Got Nobody/Sinking of the Reuben James/Why, Oh Why?/This Land is Your Land (reprise).

The night Allen Ginsberg died we dreamed of a Hudson Hornet roaring through the American night down some godforsaken Colorado blacktop headed for San Francisco. At the wheel, of course, is James Dean, his eyes slitted against the smoke that curls up from the cigarette clenched between his lips. Next to him, straddling the Hornet's hump, Holden Caulfield says, "How the hell are you doing, Jimmy?" "Eyes are good. Hands are good," replies Dean, his eyes flicking down to the speedometer needle hovering at 95. Slumped silently against the opposite door, brooding into the night, sits Dean Moriarty, mentally retracing endless runs of the Big Triangle. In the back seat Allen Ginsberg chants a mantra softly, while next to him Woody Guthrie thumbs a G chord on his Gibson. The men pass a bottle through the night, talking softly, beautifully, of the betrayal of the American Dream and of the desolate emptiness they sense in the sleeping towns hurtling past the Hornet. Then, just as the first crack of dawn appears in the rear view mirror, Woody bangs on the Gibson and busts out, "Take you ridin' in my car, car, take you ridin' in my car," and the Hudson explodes with laughter and Dean lays on the horn in pure joy as the first rays of the sun ignite the mountaintop rising dead ahead...

Okay, our affection for Woody has a perverse 1950s romantic spin on it. We discovered him in 1957 in complete ignorance of the People's Songs movement, Woody's involvement with the CP, and the nascent post-McCarthy attempts to make of him a plaster saint of the political left. We first encountered him in the pages of Bound for Glory, which had just been reprinted in the paper Dolphin edition and to which we had been directed by a canny reviewer (John Clellan Holmes?) who called Woody's book a precursor of our sacred text, Jack Kerouac's On the Road. We picked up a couple of Woody's 10-inch Folkways discs, and found that he sounded not unlike some of our other musical inspirations on the Folkways Anthology of American Music. Woody seemed to fit easily into our pantheon of hipster heroes, real and imaginary. Like Holden Caulfield, Woody was affectionate with children but contemptuous of phonies and authority figures. Like Allen Ginsberg, he changed his own quirky, visionary verse. Like Jack Kerouac, Woody had given us a sprawling autobiographical novel based on his western wanderings. And like James Dean, Woody was a consummate performer, master of the mumbled throwaway, and the pose of the man-child who would always be lost and alone.

This CD is the Woody album we lusted after in the 1950s, when we had to settle for fuzzytone Stinson LPs and echoey tape dubs of Disc and Cub 78 rpms. The first of a projected four volumes, this CD begins the reissue of all of Woody's 1944-1947 Asch recordings that can still be recovered by archivist Jeff Place and the laboratory of the Smithsonian. Some acetate masters have crumbled beyond recovery, and the jumble of Moe Asch's files make even a definitive Woody-Asch discography impossible.

The otherwise impeccable and informative notes of Guy Logsdon fail to tell us the rationale for selection and programming of these sides, but no matter: the CD is a Woody Guthrie treasure chest, containing plenty of his greatest songs and illustrating Woody's surprising range as the archetypal singer-songwriter in whose shadow still trudges an unending line of self-made Woody clones, refugees not from the dustbowl but from the saladbowl of the middle class.

Here are the best-sounding Woody performances you will every hear of his best kids' songs ("Car Song," "Why Oh Why?"), his great paeans to the America which treated him so badly ("This Land"-yes, the one with that stanza-and "Pastures of Plenty"), Woody the outrageous ("Jesus Christ," "Talking Hard Work"), his hillbilly blues ("New York Town," "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad"), his duets with Cisco (which rank among the best of the hillbilly "brothers" close harmony performances), and Woody as patriot ("Sinking of the Reuben James"). We even get a couple of samples of Woody at his least inspired: "Lindbergh" is an anti-Lindy, anti-"America First" rant to the tune of "White House Blues"; and "Jarama Valley" commemorates to the tune of "Red River Valley" a Lincoln Brigade battle. Both probably seemed like good ideas at the time.

Our pantheon is older and wiser now, but Woody still belongs in it, perhaps cheering up the gloomy Starbuck in the foc'sle of the Pequod, trading stretchers with Huck and Jim on the raft, or riding atop the Broadway tramcars with Walt Whitman. Like them, Woody belongs forever to a younger America which, as we approach the millenium, keeps on disappearing in the rearview mirror.

Jon and Marcia Pankake

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Keith Hiatt - Songs That Never Grow Old
Flyin' Cloud cassette FC-032

Keith Hiatt-vocals; Everette Harris-guitar, fiddle; Kirk Sutphin-fiddle; Leigh Latchum-fiddle; Scott Manning-dobro; Brad Talley-dobro; Doug Rorrer-bass, guitar.

Wabash Cannonball/Nobody's Darling But Mine/Silver Haired Daddy/ Never Grow Old/Two Different Worlds/lAll The World Is Lonely Now/Born To Lose/We Shall Sleep, But Not Forever/You Are My Sunshine/My Tears Don't Show/Sweeter Than The Flowers/Take My Hand/While I'm Away/Blue Eyed Darling/Be Honest With Me/Sweet Home.

My father-in-law would love this tape. In fact, I'm going to give it to him as a stocking stuffer this Christmas (he doesn't see the Herald, so it'll still be a surprise). He just turned 74, is from eastern North Carolina, and grew up with all these songs. My wife and her sisters got together a few years ago and bought him a guitar-his first-and he's learning some of these songs right now, while you're reading this review, out of a book. This music, country music from the radio of the late '30s and through the '40s, is a big part of his "oral" tradition.

Kenny Rorrer and his label, Flyin' Cloud, from up around Charlie Poole's stomping grounds of Leaksville-Spray-Draper, nee Eden, NC, have put out this cassette of Keith Hiatt. Kenny says in the j-card notes, "If you ever want a steep roof painted and painted right, then call Keith Hiatt. If you ever want to hear a "real down-to-earth" old-time country song fiddled and sung right, then also call Keith Hiatt! He's the "genuine article." The statement seems deeply accurate. Keith Hiatt, a working man with a musical talent who grew up listening to these songs and songs like them, wanted to make a recording of some of his most favorite songs. This is it.

The playing and singing on this tape is solid and quite listenable. Indeed, there are obvious reasons why most of these songs are "songs that never grow old." They are among the greatest hits of all time, the golden oldies of country music back when country music was still basically old-time music. I personally like the tape a lot as a source for one of my all-time faves, "The Wabash Cannon Ball." I'll never forget Dizzy Dean singing snatches of it during slow stretches of the Saturday Baseball Game of the Week-I always wanted to hear the whole thing, but, though ole Diz had a magnificant country voice, he never did more than part of a verse, just so he could roar into the chorus-"Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar." And who was the mysterious "Daddy Claxton, may his name forever stand?"

As regular fare, this is a fairly sentimental menu. There's none of that ironic edge here-the kind you find on most "modern" old-time albums-most young old-timers, I think, find it hard to avoid at least a subtle hint that, really, they are in the know, that to laugh at them for being corny would be to, really, miss the point. Keith Hiatt just loves these songs, and wants to sing them for you. That's the deal, period.

And so that's what it comes down to on this cassette. Take it or leave it. Or if you know somebody over 60 who grew up listening to country music, and can't find anything like that to listen to any more, stick a copy of this in their stocking. It's kind of a way of saying what John Prine told you to say to your elders-"Hello in there-o."

To Order: Flyin' Cloud Records, 168 Glenridge Dr., Eden NC 27288; e-mail:mediaman@vnet.net.

Wm. N. Hicks

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Grandpa Jones - Everybody's Grandpa
Bear Family BCD 15788

Grandpa Jones-banjo, guitar, vocals; Ramona Jones-vocals, mandolin, fiddle; Merle Travis-guitar, banjo, vocals; Maybelle and Helen Carter-vocals; and numerous Nashville session personnel.

1: It's Raining Here This Morning/Banjo Sam/My Darling's Not My Darling Anymore/Going 'Cross The Sea/Groundhog/Mighty Long Way To Travel/Make The Rafters Ring/All Night Long/Count Your Blessings/East Bound freight train/I Guess You Don't Remember Now/I've Just Been Gone Too Long/Tritzem Yodel/T For Texas/Any Old Time/Waiting For A Train (1)/My Carolina Sunshine Girl/Dear Old Sunny South/My Little lady/Brakeman's Blues/Lullaby Yodel/Peach Picking Time In Georgia/Hobo Bill/Away Out On The Mountain/Roll Along Kentucky Moon/Waiting For A Train (2)/You And My Old Guitar/T For Texas (alt)/Tritzem Yodel (undubbed).

2: The Ladies Man/The Thing/I Don't Love Nobody/Hip Cat's Wedding/These Hills/Billy Yank and Johnny Reb/Goodbye Reb/Willis Mayberry/Sweet Fern/Night Train To Memphis/Rosalee/(Somewhere) Somebody's Waiting (For You)/Kickin' Mule/Liza's Up A 'Simmon Tree/Chicken Don't Roost Too High/Going from The Cotton Fields/Tragic Romance/Methodist Pie/Fatal Wedding/What Does The Deep Sea Say?/I'm Tying The Leaves (So They Won't Come Down)/Oh Captain Captain/Devilish Mary/The Ladies Man (alt)/Hip Cat's Wedding (alt)/Night Train To Memphis (alt).

3: Are You from Dixie?/Root Hog Or Die/Falling Leaves/Here Comes The Champion/Banjo Am The Instrument/Springtime Comes But Once A Year/Eight More Miles To Louisville (master)/The Little Old Lady/Springtime Comes But Once A Year (alt) /Eight More Miles To Louisville (alt)/Eight More Miles To Louisville (alt)/On The Jericho Road/I'll Meet You In The Morning/Gone Home/Keep On The Firing Line/Just Over In The Gloryland/Old Camp Meetin' Time/Empty Mansion/When I Get To The End Of The Way/The Glory Land Way/Turn Your Radio On/No Tears In Heaven/Lonesome Train (Ramona Jones)/Sandy Land (Ramona Jones)/Send Me A Red Rose (Ramona Jones)/Christmas Roses/Christmas Guest.

4: Heart Full Of Love/Goin' Down The River/Moon Of Arizona/Steady Drips Of Water/Everything I Had Going For Me Is Gone/Don't Look Back/Trouble In Mind (version 1)/Trouble In Mind (version 2)/That's All This World Needs/Bill's Gonna Soon Be Home/Mountain Laurel/Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (But Not Around Me)/I've Learned To Leave That To The Lord/Old Troupe Dog/Sweet Lips (Battle Of King's Mountain)/Plans/I'll Just Keep Living Along/King Of The Cannon County Hills/Mountain Dew/Old Rattler/Old Blue/Grasshopper McClain/Old Bill/Goin' Down The River (alt).

5: The Valley Of The Never Do Good/Four Stone Walls/A Dollar Short/Coal Camp/Here I Am Makin' Plans/Green Hills Of Home/Are You Sleeping Daddy Darlin'/Nashville On My Mind/The Mountain Man/Deep Dark Corner Of My Mind/Baby-O/My Old Lady/Brown Girl And Fair Ellender/Four Winds A-Blowin'/Intro/Fix Me A Pallet/Joke/Dooley Joke/The Air, The Sunshine, And The Rain/Joke/Castles In The Air/ Joke/Old Rattler's Pup/Joke/My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean/Rocky Top/Joke/I Don't Love Nobody/John Henry/The Last Ol' Shevel/Joke/Southern Bound/15 Cents Is All I Got.

Louis "Grandpa" Jones is currently working on his seventh decade as a guitar strumming, banjo frailing, song writing singing comedian and all around country music legend. I'll admit without hesitation to being a Grandpa fan from the first time I saw Grandpa on TV twenty years back. He has steadfastly remained true to traditional country music over the years and has left a large recorded legacy which reflects that-well, sometimes. Case in point, this new 5 CD set from Bear Family. Everybody's Grandpa includes Grandpa Jones's entire recorded output from late 1960 to mid-1973, the years he was signed to Monument Records.

Personally, I feel that many of Grandpa's best recordings (my favorites anyway) were done for King Records (1943-51), but that material has not been made available for a reissue project such as this one yet. Given that, Bear Family has gone to great lengths in remastering this material and presenting everything that was recorded during the Monument time period, including alternate takes and undubbed versions of songs. As one might expect with such an all inclusive approach, there are going to be a few problems here and there, perhaps some material best left unheard. Listen to "Christmas Guest" or "Christmas Roses" and you'll get the picture. Other than these two cuts, the material in this set is pretty consistent in content and sound with much of the mainstream country music being produced at the time. Throughout, the music is textured with layers of sound provided by Nashville's finest session players. Lots of rhythm guitars, some piano here and there, occasional electric guitar and drums, vocal choruses, and of course, clawhammer banjo. At worst, it's "old-time music and rube comedy meets the Nashville Sound." At it's best though, there's some damn fine country music to be heard here, and as I like straight forward country music, I found much of the music on these five discs to be quite enjoyable. There is sometimes some serious wading through the other stuff to be done to find it, however, and for this reason I think it's highly unlikely that this set will appeal to many readers of The Old-Time Herald. That said, there are a few gems to be found throughout which should to appeal to most everyone.

Early on, there's a solid version of "Going 'Cross The Sea" which features some truly great clawhammer banjo playing from none other than Merle Travis that makes you forget all about the drums. On Disc 5, from his final session for Monument, Grandpa offers up an unusual but lovely version of "Brown Girl and Fair Ellender," to the tune I associate with Burnett and Rutherford's "Willie Moore," accompanied only by his own banjo and harmonica. Now that's old-time music. Scattered in between are Grandpa's renditions of older, traditional material, songs like "Willis Mayberry," a variant of the murder ballad "Hills of Roane County," "Groundhog," and others. Many of these songs first appeared on an album Grandpa recorded in 1963 in response to the Folk Music Revival, which was then in full swing. (The album was called Grandpa Jones Sings Real Folk Songs.) Also to be found are tributes to Jimmie Rodgers, songs from the Carter Family, a fair number of songs from the pen of Grandpa himself, and a couple from his wife Ramona.

Disc 3 contains my favorites - a tribute to the Brown's Ferry Four, a group that Grandpa recorded with in the 1940s that included the Delmore Brothers, Merle Travis, and at times, Red Foley or Clyde Moody. For this material Grandpa got together with Ramona, Red Rector, and Merle Travis and recorded with just four voices and guitar with occasional mandolin by Red. The results sound much like another pioneering gospel quartet, The Chuck Wagon Gang, which suits my tastes just fine. It was the material like this that made wading through the rest worthwhile. Now, if they'd just reissue that King material. . . .

To order: Bear Family Records, P.O. Box 1154-D, 27727 Hambergen, Germany

Jim Nelson

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Will Keys - A Banjo Original
County CO-CD-2720

Will Keys-banjo; Barabara Kuhns-fiddle; Doug Smith-guitar. Guest appearances from Tony Testerman (bass), Jeff Little (piano), Wayne Henderson (guitar), Laurie Lewis (fiddle), Dudley Connell (guitar), Jimmy Trivette (bass).

The Wearing of the Green/Chinquapin Hunting/Midnight on the Water/ Standing on the Promises/Cat in the Pear Tree/Once More/The Dead March/ Silver Bell/The Eighth of January/My Pretty Quadroon/Snake Chapman's Tune/Down Yonder/Cielito Lindo/Texas Gals/Waiting for the Robert E. Lee/ Blow Ye Winds Softly/Puncheon Floor/There is a Fountain/Black Mountain Rag/Are You From Dixie?/Palms of Victory/Goodbye Girls, I'm Going to Boston.

A breath of fresh air, this one. As Joe Wilson explains in the extensive liner notes, Will Keys' banjo style is unique: "there is no right hand pattern , only a requirement that the melody line be as rich and full as humanly possible. . . . [T]his is a style developed from a sounding of the melody, a sensibility about melody. It is driven by taste, not a picking technique." Keys, who was born in 1923 in northeastern Tennessee, was one of 17 children, and his musical sensibility combines a taste for driving dance rhythms (his elder brothers had a string band) with the elegant touch of parlor music (as played on the piano and sung by his sisters). This CD shows us the full range, from the smoking band sound of "Cat in the Pear Tree" (otherwise known as „Mississippi Sawyer‰) to delicate solo pieces like "The Dead March" and "My Pretty Quadroon." The CD will surely delight anyone with an interest in old-time banjo.

Besides Joe Wilson's notes, Keys contributes a few words on the provenance of the tunes. Some were learned from the singing of his mother and the playing of his sisters. Some were picked up from local fiddlers such as Charlie Bowman, Bob Clark of Blackley Creek, and Urg Light of Chimney Top Mountain in Greene County, Tennessee. Keys describes Light-his source for the idiosyncratically named version of "Mississippi Sawyer"-as "the best old-time fiddler I ever heard," but, sadly, adds that he knows of no recordings of Light's playing. Others-popular pieces like "Silver Bell" and "Down Yonder"-were learned from records or the radio. Still others were learned from young old-time players: Keys tells us that he got "Snake Chapman's Tune" from the playing of Dirk Powell, which leads him to observe that he's "an equal opportunity tune grabber. I'll take one from a Young Billy just as quickly as I will from an Old Goat."

Most of the accompaniment to Will Keys' banjo is provided by fiddler Barbara Kuhns of Dayton, Ohio, and guitarist Doug Smith. Their playing blends well with his. In addition, Tony Testerman steps in on bass for several of the tunes. Variety is provided by Wayne Henderson's guitar picking and Jeff Little's rollicking piano on "Down Yonder" and "Are You From Dixie?" Laurie Lewis, Dudley Connell and Jimmy Trivette-in a live recording from the Masters of the Banjo tour in 1994-aid Mr. Keys in the spectacular burning up of "Cat in the Pear Tree." This is a keeper.

Allin Cottrell

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The Konnarock Critters - Cornbread and Sweetpeas
Marimac CD 9068D

Hell Broke Loose in Georgia/I've Endured/Cornbread and Sweetpeas/I Don't Love Nobody/Pumpkin Rock/Lost Indian/Down in the Willow Garden/Swampcat Rag/Ryestraw/Dixie Darlin'/Poor Liza Jane/Victor E. Rag/Altamont/Say Darlin' Say/Sally Was a Poor Girl/Nancy Blevins/Michelle's Waltz.

Brian Grim-fiddle; Debbie Grim-banjo; Jim Lloyd-guitar; Al Firth-bass.

A first listening to Cornbread and Sweetpeas, the debut recording from the Konnarock Critters, is an easy and comfortable experience. The sound is traditional, most tunes are familiar, and the effect is fun, exciting, and often soothing. By the end of the first listening, it's actually hard to imagine never having heard this band-they're like an old pair of slippers you've flopped around in forever.

It is through repeated listenings, however, that the true mettle of music is usually tested. Sounds which are accessible enough to please on first listening may lack the dimension to hold our interest for long. The very best music, conversely, gets better over the years, and is reborn through the hearts, minds and hands of the most ardent listeners. It is this living music that earns the label "traditional" and that somehow defies both categorization and extinguishment. Where that leaves the Critters (or any artist), is what keeps us all listening, thinking and sharing our reflections.

The Konnarock Critters, a four-piece group of former-Galax champs, hail from the Whitetop Mountain area of Grayson County, in southwestern Virginia. The band consists of siblings Brian and Debbie Grim, (on fiddle and banjo respectively), guitarist Jim Lloyd, and bass player Al Firth. The recording's liner notes accurately describe their old-time sound as "high-energy, built on rock-solid rhythm," and reflecting "generations of the rich musical heritage of the area in which they were raised." Influences noted there include legendary Whitetop Mountain fiddler Albert Hash, under whom Brian studied, and fiddler Thornton Spencer. Also, for Debbie, banjoists Emily Spencer and Ola Belle Reed. There were obviously a great many more.

What quickly becomes evident on Cornbread and Sweetpeas is that the Critters have not only mastered the high-energy string-band sound that the (original) title-track showcases so well-they can rock with the best of the old-time dance bands-but have delved successfully into a variety of other traditional styles as well, all within the established idiom of southern mountain music. The vocals, harmonies, and instrumentation are strong, the pace is varied, and all band members contribute significantly in various contexts. This is a band that derives from many sources, and acknowledges them readily, but is comfortable in its own understated identity.

The fiddle-banjo pairing of Brian and Debbie is, as suitable for the genre, a powerful unit unto itself. One can imagine, in hearing them, many nights of family music-making through the years. In rollicking versions of the Skillet Lickers classics "Hell Broke Loose in Georgia'" and "Ryestraw'" the players demonstrate the sureness and offhandedness that only years of exploration and experience can produce. Brian is a solid, sensitive fiddler with good timing, and Debbie's banjo is a natural foil. Lesser known traditional tunes such as "Pumpkin Rock'" and the formidable "Nancy Blevins," and the Eck Robertson version of "Lost Indian'" all benefit from their spirited treatment, as do the more obscure "Altamont'" and first-rate "Poor Liza Jane." Perhaps my favorite cut, the great "Sally was a Poor Girl'" sounds to this ear like fiddle-charged variant of the traditional "Frankie" (as in "Frankie and Johnny"). If a flaw has to be found anywhere, it might be that the band is vocally reticent on the breakdowns.

The real strength of this recording, and the key to its listenability, is the balance afforded by well-placed songs. Debbie's wonderful rendition of Ola Belle Reed's "I've Endured," and Debbie and Brian's harmonized versions of "Dixie Darlin'," "Say, Darlin' Say" and "Down in the Willow Garden" are testament to the pair's versatility. Jim and Al, besides bringing tasteful accompaniment and fills, contribute exciting variation with guitar-bass duets; first, the flat-picked version of the Skillet Lickers' "I Don't Love Nobody" and later the syncopated, finger-picked rendition of the Carters' "Victory Rag." Brian's own "Michelle's Waltz" is a graceful and inspiring conclusion to this panoramic outing-and a perfect segue back to the first track!

In many ways, this may be among the most mature offerings by a "youngish" group of old-time musicians. It is crafted like a good live performance, and remains mindful of the spaces and moods that happen within and between the tracks. It contains all the high-powered old-time fiddle-banjo music anyone could want without the numbing repetition. The effect is to leave the listener not just awed, but moved, refreshed and invigorated. By every measure that matters, this one's another "guess-I've-gotta-get-it" recording for fans of old-time string-band music.

Charlie Gravel

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Video Review
Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Mose Rager, and Doc Watson - Legends of Country Guitar
Vestapol 13070
1997 VHS Video Cassette
Mose Rager-guitar, vocals; Chet Atkins-guitar, vocals; Merle Travis-guitar, vocals; Doc Watson-guitar, harmonica, vocals; Various backing musicians.
Mose Rager: I Am a Pilgrim
Chet Atkins: The Entertainer/Jerry's Breakdown/Beatles Medley/Black Mountain Rag/Until It's Time For You to Go/This String/Rainbow/Kentucky
Merle Travis: Travis Medley/Mutual Admiration
Doc Watson: Freight Train Boogie/I Don't Love Nobody/Windy and Warm/Travelin' Man/Streamlined Train
Mose Rager: Back Water Blues/Cannonball Rag
Merle Travis: Mus'rat/Dapper Dan from Dixieland/Guitar Rag.

With seemingly more and more music being packaged in videotape format, a question arises about video genres. Should the production be a documentary? Or should it be simply a filmed musical performance, with little or no explanation except that provided by accompanying notes? The latter approach is essentially what one gets with an audio recording, and it is undoubtedly the far less expensive strategy. Legends of Country Guitar, excellent in many way, opts for the inexpensive form of production, as it mines various television programs to show its subjects in performance. However, there are some exceptions here, notably the two Mose Rager segments, in which the influential but somewhat obscure finger-picker is interviewed first by folklorist D.K. Wilgus and later by Don and Phil Everly.

The relative lack of explanation on the video, however, assumes that the viewer knows something about the so-called Travis style of finger-picking-that Mose Rager learned it around the coal mines of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky ("colored fellers way back yonder played the thumb pick just as far as I can remember"), and passed it on to Merle Travis, who is responsible for its dissemination. The knowledgeable audience will come to the tape with the necessary context. The rest of us must supplement the experience by reading Cary Ginell's informative and relatively lengthy essay in the accompanying booklet. Absorbing both the video and the booklet is a rewarding experience.

As for the performances themselves, the impact varies from segment to segment. The short Mose Rager segments are interesting primarily from a historical perspective, though they also depict Rager as an engagingly humble man. Merle Travis appears twice on the video, first with son Thom Bresh on a 1979 excerpt from the Canadian-based television show "Nashville Swing." In spite of the charm of both performers, the songs are trivialized by the hammy, nostalgic approach, as the two engage in a style of variety-show banter that is supposed to pass for wit. The second Travis appearance is more relaxed, essentially home movie footage from 1981, but the performances are light and undistinguished. Clearly, the Merle Travis on this video is an important figure from American musical history whose best days have passed.

The video is dominated, however, by the separate segments featuring Chet Atkins and Doc Watson, two figures who each have synthesized various styles, including the Travis style of picking. The Atkins performances are drawn from the television shows "Pop Goes the Country" and "Austin City Limits." Atkins, is, of course, a supremely polished guitarist, and in these appearances he deftly reworks material from various sources, from Scott Joplin to the Beatles, in ways that sound sometimes like jazz, sometimes like classical music (especially on "Kentucky"). The reserved Atkins does seem a bit thrown by the high-strung Jerry Reed on "Jerry's Breakdown," and "This String," a tune best suited for a children's program, is the clunker of the group, not only because of the song but also because Atkins sounds bored as he sings about his guitar strings. But Chet Atkins will always be "Mister Guitar," and the excerpts here do nothing to diminish his reputation.

Because Atkins is such a technician, my own tastes run more towards Doc Watson, who seems to play and sing with more depth and feeling. Also, these five songs, three of which feature the only flat-picking on the video, constitute a coherent set, as they are all from a 1987 appearance on Iowa Public Television. Watson is joined by T. Michael Coleman on bass and backing vocals and Jeff Alexander on second guitar. The three engage in none of the silliness that mars too many television performances. From the opening harmonica chords that signal the beginning of "Freight Train Boogie" to the end of Watson's up tempo reworking of Roy Acuff's "Streamlined Train," we get nothing but a solid block of very good picking and singing.

The sound throughout the video is good. The camera angles are often limited, however, so the supporting musicians or interviewers sometimes remain anonymous. I do have a further quibble with the packaging of this video. I have tried with the review to correctly list the order in which songs are played-the cover of the video is inaccurate. But at least one mystery remains: is the second Mose Rager segment from 1975, as Ginell's essay claims, or from 1984, as the song list indicates? Ginell usually sounds authoritative on such matters, and here he wonders how Rager could age so much in only 13 years. But the evident aging would be explained if 1984 is the correct date. And weren't the Everly Brothers, who here interview Rager, feuding in 1974? A minor point, to be sure, but I wish liner notes would aspire to the precision of Chet Atkins' playing.

Richard Gaughran

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Lil' Rev with Pig Ankle Dave - Uke Town
rev 120970

Lil' Rev-harmonica, ukelele, mandolin, guitar; Dave Fox-guitar, whashboard, hambone; John Nicholson-guitar, banjo; Scott Finch-piano; Josh Fox-acoustic bass; Reverend Stephen Weist-harmonica.

Wisconsin Central/Old Milwaukee Runaround/Ukelele Blues/Buffalo Nickel/Some Flowers Need to Grow/Cream City Jig/4 Reasons/E Blues/ I Can't Sing the New Songs/Lil' Brown Jug/Don't Cut Your Hair/Darling its You/Portland Messaround/Stringband Music/Hammond Breakdown/Jug Band Music/Hambone Blues/Ukelele Rag/Jelly Roll Blues/Pick a Bale of Cotton/Midnight on the Water.

"All my heroes sing the blues" sings Lil' Rev in "Some Flowers Need to Grow," and it shows, on this amazing CD, that mixes and matches classic blues with classic hokum, heartfelt and unpretetious lyrics in original songs, and sparkling and totally together instrumental work by Rev and supporting musicians. Lil' Rev, aka Mark Revenson, is a Milwaukee native who has evidently caught some southern sounds that rode the rails or winds up North; he is a consummate blues harmonica player (National Blues Harmonica Champion, Avoca, Iowa), and ukelele, guitar, and mandolin virtuoso, and a communicative and unaffected singer. Though not a real reverend-unlike Stephen Weist, his friend and mentor on the harmonica, or another influence, Rev. Charlie Edmonds, a sharecropper's son-Li'l Rev is something of a missionary for the old roots music. "I don't do '60s-style quasi-folk music," he has said. "Most of the stuff I perform goes much further back, old-style blues, old timey music. . . ." Even so, whether he recognizes it or not, some of Rev's roots dip into the coffee house, singer-songwriter scene of the folksong "revival," which has in effect become a source tradition itself. His original songs, like "Darling It's You," and "Some Flowers Need to Grow," for example, are personal contemporary compositions, and they ring true, unlike the often pretentious soul-baring or pseudo-ruralizing of many new singer-composed songs. But clearly, the strongest influence comes from southern old-time and blues traditions. Rev's music is no precious recreating of early sounds-he imparts a freshness to his work that clearly comes from good musical instincts, understanding of the feeling behind the music as well as its component elements, and most of all, from work in front of an audience. Though his music comes across well enough on this recording, Rev is obviously a tireless live performer, and his promotional material shows that he is ready to play and sing, and lead sing-alongs, at clubs, coffee houses, festivals, schools, etc. Like the folk professionals of earlier days, he "acts locally," though the music, like any good art, can reach beyond time and place. He does seem to love his home area, his friends, family, and public, and though his sources come from far and near, he seems "centered" as a performer and an individual. He says, in his very sincere and interestingly written liner notes, "I am forever trying to find creative ways of naming tunes after my hometown," and one of these is "Cream City Jig," a catchy mandolin original; another is the so-dumb-it's great "Old Milwaukee Runaround" that will get you singing the chorus whether you like it or not. The opening cut, the fine harmonica blues "Wisconsin Central," is both a local reference and a recognition of one railroad the blues took North.

Rev's partner Dave Fox (Pig Ankle Dave) is a terrific blues guitarist, and nowhere do the two work better together than on the harp/guitar duet, "E Blues," where a hat is appropriately tipped to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Little Walter, and John Jackson. The two blend equally well in the mandolin-fingerpicking guitar setting of "Midnight on the Water"-uncharacteristically, the notes neglect to credit the source and composer of this now famous waltz, Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson. A few other outstanding cuts: the Banjo Ikey Robinson hokum song, "4 Reasons," with uke and washboard; "I Can't Sing the New Songs," with the memorable lines, "I can't sing the new songs, no matter what I do / My heart'll fail me and my voice so will too"; "Stringband Music," a love song and peaen to today's old-time scene that may strike a chord with many readers of OTH-"If you don't mind when the fiddles all start to whine and the banjos start to roll / If you don't mind when the guitars grind, honey won't you rosin my bow?"; the neat original hokum "Ukelele Rag," and the "Jelly Roll Blues" with Rev's mandolin evoking Yank Rachell.

Check out this CD, and remember what Lil' Rev said in "Don't Cut Your Hair": "Let It Grow!"

To order: PO Box 71362, Milwaukeee WI 53211

Art Rosenbaum

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Larry Long with the Youth and Elders of Rural Alabama - Here I Stand-Elders' Wisdom, Children's Song
Smithsonian/Folkways CD SF45050

Fourteen spoken selections and two songs by Alabama Elders Eleven Children's Songs inspired by the Elders; one fiddle instrumental (Sally Goodin); one sacred song by Camp Hill Alabama Centerview Youth Choir; one sacred song by Camp Hill Alabama Sacred Harp Singers.

There is a theory that lack of respect for old people is the result of literacy and the printing press. The idea is that in societies without written records, old people were the repositories of knowledge. If you wanted to know how to get to a distant village, or who the king was when your father was young, or how to fix a wagon wheel, or why a battle was fought north of town before you were born, or how to catch and clean fish, or who really owned the farm next to yours before your neighbors took it over, you asked people old enough to know these things. Such people would be respected. They were vital to the community. But relying on the memories of old people is an information storage and retrieval system that doesn't always compete well with libraries, to say nothing of computer databases. This is why (the theory goes) that old people are less valued than perhaps they used to be.

The PACERS Small Schools Cooperative at the University of Alabama, whose work this album documents, may never have heard of that theory, but they certainly seem to be doing something about it. As part of a "Celebration of Community & Place," rural Alabama grade school children were given the chance to hear stories, judgment, and insight from older people of their communities. This album lets us hear some of the wisdom of these elders and also to hear original songs based on what the children heard. And what the children heard is certainly impressive. Presented on this recording are the voices of 13 black, white and Hispanic men and women whose ages range from about 30 to about 90. From these people, the children learned things in a way they would be hard pressed to duplicate elsewhere. In 87-year-old Atha Thacker's story of having to work in the mines to help support the family after his mother died, there is a simple, casual reference to black lung. It puts that disease into context in a way no textbook or government report could possibly equal. Hearing Arthur Slater tell what it was like to listen, on the first radio in the community, to a Joe Lewis boxing match puts technological change into an entirely new prospective. And there is nothing clinical about Gladys Milton's description of delivering babies, which ends: "The sweetest music this side of heaven is a newborn baby crying. . . . Sometimes I wish you could see it." Dana Williams and Lillian Deihl must have opened some eyes when they described doing laundry in winter before soap powder and washing machines. They took an ax and cut ice, which they melted in a pot for the water. "We had a bar of soap to wash with. . . . We didn't have no washing powders. And you had to cut that soap up and put it in the wash pot to make your suds like they use now for when they have powders Tide and all those expensive powders."

It is the voices of these people that are the heart and soul of this album, and it is hard not to regret that there is not more of this material. That would have defeated the purpose of the album, however, which is to balance the testimony of the old people against the songs of the children. The project is largely the work of Larry Long. Described in the album notes as "a musician, community organizer, father, and educator" as well as "a true American troubadour" (Studs Terkel), Larry Long has been working with PACERS to develop what is referred to as "an inter-generational curriculum, mixing oral history and song writing." The idea of having older people speak to children in schools and then having the children write songs based on what they heard sounds admirable. I am not quite sure how well it actually worked, however. The songs are all copyrighted by Larry Long but are credited to Larry Long and the children of the various grade school classes before whom the old people spoke. It is not possible to know how much the songs are the product of the children and how much they are the result of adult coaching. Musically, the songs are of a sort perhaps best enjoyed in the context of the "Here I Stand" project and, indeed, may be most appreciated by the principals themselves. All of them are restatements of material the children heard from the elders, but none of them is as eloquent as the original testimony. A more serious problem, however, is that the songs give little, if any, insight into how the children actually reacted to what they heard. Coached group song composition may not be best way to provide such insight. It seems a little that someone may have shoehorned this project into a musical context into which it doesn't really fit very comfortably. I would cheerfully trade all of the songs for recordings of children telling what is was like to hear what the older people had to say, what they thought of it, how they reacted to it, what it meant to them. There are also three musical selections, a fiddle instrumental and two choral sacred performances, whose place in this album is unclear. Neither their context on the album or the accompanying notes tell us how they fit into the overall project.

Even so, this album still deserves respect as a document of a remarkable project. It ends, appropriately enough, with advice by Walter Frederick Browder who was born in 1926: "What I say to you is to do as well as you can on your schooling. You may need it someday, not necessarily to make a living, but to make a life. That's about it."

Indeed it is.

A.V. Shirk

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Book Review
Benny Thomasson Fiddle Transcriptions by Peter Martin
Petimar Press, Seattle WA 1997

Apple Blossom/Bitter Creek/Bonaparte's Retreat/Bonnie Kate's Reel/Cotton Patch Rag/Cripple Creek/Don't Let The Deal Go Down/Dry and Dusty/Forked Deer/Forty Years Ago Waltz/Jack of Diamonds/Little Joe/Morpeth's Hornpipe/Ook Pic Waltz/Sally Johnson/Steeley's Rag/Wild John.

Benny Thomasson was one of the originators of Texas-style fiddling, and many think he was the best of them. He was possibly the most imitated fiddler in the western United States and his influence changed the whole sound of western fiddle contests. He inspired countless young people (including his most famous protege, Mark O'Connor) with his beautiful fiddling and his generous and friendly manner, not to mention his and his students' ability to excel in competition.

Benny's arrangements of tunes involved intricate variations which (unlike many of his imitators) somehow never lost the essence of the original tune, and which often added lyricism and deep feeling. Many of his variations were carefully worked out, and appear over and over again in different performances. Other variations were spur-of-the moment improvisations which occasionally got him into a hole that he would have to fiddle his way out of.

Peter Martin is a musician and music teacher from Seattle, Washington, and a true aficionado of Benny's music. He has even established a great Benny Thomasson home page. Pete has done an excellent job of transcribing 17 of Benny's performances in standard music notation, with bowings and fingerings indicated. Basic backup chords are also included. The tunes in this book were transcribed from the Voyager Weiser Reunion cassette, the County LPs Country Fiddling from the Big State and Texas Hoedown, and jam session tapes.

As far as I know, there are no films or videos of Benny playing, so it's impossible to say if the bowings and fingerings are perfectly accurate-besides, Benny was pretty free in varying the way he played his tunes, especially in jam sessions. But I listened to some of the originals, and compared what I heard with what's on the paper, and it looks very accurate to me.

We all know that simply playing the same notes that another fiddler plays will not make you sound like that fiddler. Even doing the fingerings and bowings the same way isn't enough. I've listened to plenty of Benny's playing, and I consider myself a pretty good sightreader. But when I propped the music up in front of me and read through some of the tunes, (surprise!) I didn't sound like Benny. However, I was able to understand better how he put all those notes together, and what went into producing that inimitable Benny Thomasson sound.

This book is an invaluable resource for any student of Benny Thomasson's style. We are fortunate that we can reap the benefit of Pete's dedication to the painstaking task of transcribing these wonderful and challenging fiddle tunes.

To order: Petimar Press, PO Box 33482, Seattle WA 98133
Benny Thomasson home page: http://www.halcyon.com/petimar/bennyhom.htm.

Vivian Williams

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John McCutcheon - Sprout Wings and Fly
Rounder CD 0406

John McCutcheon-vocals, fiddle, 5 and 6-string banjo, 6 and 12 string guitar, hammer dulcimer, autoharp, mountain dulcimer; T.J. Johnson-guitar, mandolin; Mark Schatz-bass; Zeke Healey-didgeridoo; Darrell Rose-djimbe, talking drum; Robert "Jos" Josp=E9-hand drum, log drum; Michael Aharon-piano and cello; Charlie Pilzer-piano; Jesse Smith-fiddle; Erin Shrader-fiddle; Steve Riley-Cajun accordion; Tim O'Brien-mandolin and harmony vocal; Robin & Linda Williams-harmony vocals; Iris DeMent-harmony vocal.

Who'll Rock the Cradle/Reuben/Over the Garden Wall/Jack of Diamonds/Wheels/Tim the Turncoat/Ludlow Massacre/Sweet Sunny South/Yellow Rose of Texas/Heaven's Wake/Road to Bangor/Morrison's/Oh Death/Hangman's Reel/Time Has Made a Change in Me/Cumberland Gap.

Sprout Wings and Fly is John McCutcheon's 19th album and his first in 15 years to contain a substantial amount of old-time and folk material in fairly straightforward arrangements. As usual, McCutcheon is able to infuse these old classics with his own strong instrumental virtuosity and singing. The same elements are there as in his first five albums: hammer dulcimer, a Carter Family song, banjo, singing, autoharp, guitar, and mountain dulcimer. He has added some new sounds and has some guest artists, but this is essentially a well done old-time album. As you look over the list of the tunes, there are few surprises except for the couple of original tunes. These originals nestle in well with the others. One change is a darker, more mature side of McCutcheon, which, in my opinion, is a welcome addition. Overall, this is a fine recording, and one you will want to own.

The CD booklet has song words, sources, the personnel on each cut, and tunings for the banjo or fiddle if they are out of the ordinary. It is easy to read and follow, and as a DJ I appreciate having the cuts numbered and timed, both in the booklet and on the back of the jewel case. I couldn't ask for anything more, in the way of documentation. The recording quality and balance is excellent.

It seems to me that the songs represent a musical journey, from discontent to contentment. I also sense a hurried trip to one's home town for a wedding or a funeral. While there, one meets again one's relatives and old friends, at various get-togethers. Although the old contacts are made and the favorite tunes are played at a party or two, the expatriate has no intention of moving back home to stay. His life is elsewhere. This CD has many musical memories, especially of old-time music, but has little newly uncovered traditional material in that genre.

"Who'll Rock the Cradle," a McCutcheon original, and the first cut-sparsely arranged with what sounds like a fretless banjo tuned dADAB, and Johnson's mandolin-expresses the conflict between John's need to be out in the public eye and his desire to be home with his wife and family. This song sets the tone for the CD, the almost frantic late-night drive, trying to get "home."

McCutcheon goes on to examine another facet of the "trying to get home" thread on the next cut, "Reuben," one of McCutcheon's experiments with African drums and didgeridoos. I don't mind the drums, because I can easily associate old-time music with the rhythms of Africa, and with the slaves who brought such a strong influence to American music, but the didgeridoo, in my opinion, is a distraction. On "Reuben" I probably wouldn't have minded the didgeridoo so much, but the use of that instrument covered up the sound of that wonderful old mountain dulcimer that I.D. Stamper built. I.D. Stamper, from eastern Kentucky, built mountain dulcimers that had a booming, distinctive sound. Reuben is McCutcheon's tribute to Stamper, to the memories of the times when McCutcheon used to roam the backroads of American music, collecting traditional songs and styles. The hard-driving arrangement, in fact, is reminiscent of how I.D. might have played it. So, if you listen real closely to the instrumental breaks on Reuben, you can hear that Stamper dulcimer. I think the dulcimer could have conveyed the raw power of the song just fine, without so much didgeridoo.

An abrupt change of mood occurs with the next song, the Carter family's "Over the Garden Wall," complete with autoharp, with a more gentle approach in the singing, and with Iris Dement on the harmony part. "Jack of Diamonds," the title cut, is in Tommy Jarrell's style but with Steve Riley's Cajun accordion and Robin & Linda Williams on vocals. You can't have a McCutcheon album without hammer dulcimer. "Wheels/Tim the Turncoat" are done with piano, a New England contra-style arrangement. These are tunes that John and his long-time hammer dulcimer mentor, Paul Van Arsdale, discovered independently, he says. Hammer dulcimer players will be anxious to learn and play these tunes, too. John touches base with his union/activist side with Woody Guthrie's "Ludlow Massacre." The tasteful arrangement uses cello. John's voice now becomes older and more serious.

Instead of a dreamy, nostalgic version of "Sweet Sunny South," John takes on a more savage persona with gutsy voice and insistent steel-stringed guitar. "Why was I tempted to roam?" is now a painful chant, yet the upbeat, worldly, "pop" arrangement, to me, says that it won't be easy for the sojourner to adjust to the quiet life of the country he thinks he misses.

"The Yellow Rose of Texas" is a straightforward old-time version; "The Heaven's Wake," John's other songwriting effort is sung from a 17-year-old housemaid's point of view, about loosing her lover at sea. McCutcheon again changes his voice to tell the story. "Road to Bangor," is a hammer dulcimer original which runs into "Morrison's Jig," the war-horse from McCutcheon's second album, turned here into a reel. Jesse Smith adds to the excitement with some fiery fiddling.

"Oh Death" is another didgeridoo-and-drums piece, but the didgeridoo is not so overpowering and even adds to the ominous tone of the subject matter of this Dock Boggs piece. "Hangman's Reel," another fiddle and banjo piece, shows off John's proficiency on both instruments. "Time Has Made a Change in Me" has a gospel-style piano accompaniment, and "Cumberland Gap" finishes up the CD as it started, with sparse banjo and mandolin arrangement. Maybe this starts a trend, and we'll hear more old-time music from McCutcheon in the future.

Pat Walke

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Video Review
Brownie McGhee - Born with the Blues
Vestapol 13060

Brownie McGhee-vocals; Sonny Terry-harmonica, backing vocals; Bert Jansch-guitar.

Kansas City Blues/Me and My Dog/I'm Gonna Tell God How You Treat Me/Pawn Shop Blues/Born & Living with the Blues/Life is a Gamble/Automobile Blues/My Father's Words/Conversation with a River/I Feel So Good/Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee/Key to the Highway/Come On Keep It Coming/Death of Blind Boy Fuller.

One of the fortunate results of the so-called folk boom of the early 1960s was the young white audience's "discovery" of country blues artists such as Mississippi John Hurt, Fred McDowell, Rev. Gary Davis, Son House, and Bukka White. This is the context for Vestapol Productions' recent video release of Brownie McGhee's Born With The Blues, 1966-1992.

McGhee, born Walter Brown McGhee in 1915, was, until his death in 1996, a practitioner of the Piedmont style of blues. However, as the 14 tunes on this video demonstrate, his repertoire blended gospel, rhythm and blues, jump blues, and other styles. long partnered with harmonica player Sonny Terry, McGhee is here featured with Terry on six tunes, three from a 1970 KCET-TV appearance and three from a 1974 BBC production. To my ears these provide the highlights of the video: McGhee's Martin D-18 guitar (a gift from Andy Griffith) is fitted with a pickup, and "Feel So Good" and "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" hardly resemble "country" blues, being essentially R&B numbers, a short step removed from rock. But it is hard not to get into the spirit of these tunes, and especially "Conversation With a River," with Terry's economical harp providing perfect balance to McGhee's vocal and guitar.

The first five numbers on this video are from a 1966 Seattle Folk Society production. Here McGhee, appearing solo and in black-and-white, embellishes the performance with some hokey background stories. There is a bit too much "show-biz" about his manner, if not downright jive. Nevertheless, the playing and singing on these tunes are superb, and the Seattle set allows guitarists to study McGhee's fingering, the camera staying fixed on the guitar neck for extended stretches. I am also grateful for at least one bit of humorous hokum, the introduction to "Me and My Dog"(originally released in 1940, one of McGhee's first recordings), in which the singer reveals that the dog in question was actually a cardboard cutout of the RCA Victor mascot, fastened to the walls of his leaky country shack.

The fourth and final setting on the video features McGhee with British folk singer-guitarist Bert Jansch in a 1992 documentary. Although advanced in years, McGhee still appears in good form, though there is a little interaction between McGhee and Jansch, who quietly strums along.

The performances are ingeniously framed by McGhee himself, who in the beginning of the tape invites the listener-viewer to experience his motto "Blues is Truth." At first I was tempted to dismiss the opening sermon as vague palaver. But by the end of these 14 tunes, when McGhee as an old man leans out a window to repeat his injunction, the jive manner is gone and his insistence is infectious, thanks to the music itself. "The Blues is Truth; don't forget that." Yeah, I believe. Whatever it means.

Finally, a word on technical concerns. The monaural sound is good throughout, as is the video quality. Welcome too, is the accompanying booklet in which Mark Humphrey provides a useful biographical sketch and detailed notes on the music.

Richard Gaughran

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Bruce Molsky and Big Hoedown - Bruce Molsky and Big Hoedown
Rounder CD 0421

Bruce Molsky-fiddle, banjo, vocals; Beverly Smith-guitar, vocals; Rafe Stefanini-fiddle, banjo, vocals.

Sugar Babe/Five Miles Out Of Town/Pretty Saro/Half Past Four/ Wagoner's Lad/Shove The Pig's Foot A Little Bit Further Into The Fire/ John Henry/Rocky Mountain/Paddy Won't You Drink Some Good Old Cider/ Robert's Serenade/Old Paint/We'll All Go To Heaven When The Devil Goes Blind/Shady Grove/Train On The Island, Golden Chain Tree/ The Blue Tail Fly/Clyde's Hiccups.

The three musicians represented on this CD are among the best-respected and most talented old-time players of their generation-i.e. the generation of 40-something, who initially came to old-time music "from the outside" but who have studied its nuances for many years and made it their own authentic medium of expression. Here they offer a varied program of high-octane fiddle tunes and reflective pieces-mostly drawn from Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, from players such as Ed Haley, Clyde Davenport, Marcus Martin and Fred Cockerham-with a good admixture of songs. The songs in particular are mostly original arrangements, carefully crafted by musicians who are quite capable of reproducing the first recorded sources note-for-note if they care to, but who choose to leave their own mark on the music.

The attractions of the CD include Bruce Molsky's fine nervous fiddle lines and intricate banjo-picking, the sonorous and well-honed harmonies of Molsky and Rafe Stefanini's twin fiddling, Beverly Smith's punchy guitar backup and expressive singing, and Stefanini's clucking banjo. Bruce has contributed detailed notes on their sources for the tunes.

I can recommend the CD as a window on the "state of the art" of old-time music in the late 1990s. I would recommend even more highly, however, catching Big Hoedown in concert or, even better, in the wee hours at a fiddlers' convention. Having listened, entranced, to these folks in the latter setting, it seems to me there is something a little muted about this recording. I'm struck again by the comparison-unfair, no doubt-between the almost too smooth perfection of a modern recording and the rough-edged immediacy of the great recordings from the 1920s and '30s. I'd also have liked more guitar in the mix.

Allin Cottrell

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Arnie Naiman and Chris Coole, with Kathy Reid-Naiman - Five Strings Attached With No Backing
Merriweather Records

Arnie Naiman-banjo and guitar; Chris Coole-banjo and vocals; Kathy Reid-Naiman-guitar and vocals.

Winfield's Fancy/Don Valley Ramble/Elkhorn Ridge/Bloody Red River/The Blackest Crow/Darlin' Nelly Grey/Fretless/Country Blues/The Skinny Guy's Gotta Eat/Trip to Restoule/Sally Ann Johnson/Sam's Dream/John Henry/Walking the Dog/Ducks on the Pond/John Hardy/Quince Dillon's High D/Mind the Gap.

Here's an enjoyable, rather laid-back collection of mainly clawhammer banjo music from two mainstays of Toronto's folk scene. Arnie Naiman and Chris Coole play both traditional (mostly Appalachian) tunes, and original compositions. The two musicians have rather different but complementary approaches: Naiman has more feeling for traditional style when he plays mountain tunes, and his own pieces are witty and quirkily inventive; Coole's approach to old tunes derives from the more studied esthetic of the urban melodic clawhammer school and his original tunes are plaintive, moody, arpeggiated. Some vocals, twin banjo work, and guitar backup vary the program.

It makes all the sense in the world for a contemporary urban musician to make his music from the meaningful attributes, large and small, of his daily life, and where some early mountain banjo picker might have honored his old coon dog with a clawhammer tune, Chris Coole was inspired to compose "Winfield's Fancy" by his dog of that name who "does whatever he fancies"; and the tune saunters, pokes around, and moves high and low in a delightful way. Arnie Naiman's "pooch" Merlyn is clearly a different canine, more resolute, perhaps; and Naiman's tune "Walking the Dog," a good original Canadian reel, moves along briskly as we imagine Merlyn would. Humorous and personal, another Naiman original is called "The Skinny Guy's Gotta Eat," and we don't doubt it for a minute. Again by contrast, Coole's composition "Sam's Dream" (dedicated to a newborn Sam Reddick-Hendrey) is lovely, delicate, lovingly picked.

Coole plays a couple of southern banjo tunes cleanly and skillfully: I liked the raggy "Bloody Red River" and his setting of the Henry Reed fiddle tune "Quince Dillon's High D." He sings both "John Henry" and a rare Byard Ray version of "John Hardy" among others, and I find that his singing lacks the edge needed to put across these mountain songs. The 5-string banjo has its own built-in bite, even when played delicately, due to the very nature of the instrument, but the human voice is capable of many sounds and timbres and a satisfying singing style that works with the banjo, particularly in Appalachian material, needs to be nurtured if one does not grow up with it. I wish Chris Coole's singing of "John Henry" had more of the verve and intensity that Kathy Reid-Naiman brings to her treble line when she joins him in the chorus. As I mentioned earlier, Arnie Naiman is more oriented to mountain-style picking, both when he delivers fairly close readings of traditional models, as Kyle Creed's "Darlin' Nelly Grey," and "Ducks on the Pond," or in his creative finger-picking approach to "Sally Ann Johnson" (with Chris on clawhammer banjo.) And his singing, on the haunting "The Blackest Crow," while not particularly Southern stylistically, somehow works as lyrical expression.

If you are seeking contemporary musicians who are engaging the more sinewy side of clawhammer banjo, this release will not be of prime interest to you; give it a listen if you want to hear urbane, personal, and highly developed musicality applied to the tradition, along with and some nicely conceived and played new contemporary pieces.

Art Rosenbaum

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Frank Quinn - If You Are Irish: Pioneer Irish-American Recordings, 1923-34
Arhoolie/folklyric CD 7033

Frank Quinn-vocals, fiddle or accordion, with various accompanists, instrumental and vocal.

If You Are Irish/Rafferty's Reel/Paddy McGinty's Goat/The Rakes of Drummlish/ Molly in the Woods/The Tan Yard Side/The West Port Chorus/The Shan Van Vough/Paddy Doyle/The Leg of Duck/Eddie Dunn's Favorite Reel/Going to the Fair/Donovan's Reel/Good Bye Mike, Good Bye Pat/The Old Tea Kettle/Green Grow the Rushes Oh/The Four Courts/Far Away in Australia/The Peeler and the Goat/The New Found Out Reel.

Frank Quinn, like Francis O'Neill, was part of those vast generations of Irish people who immigrated to the United States in the last half of the 19th Century and the first two decades of the 20th. As they say, there are more Irishmen in New York than in Dublin. Mr. Quinn, like many of his fellows, became a New York City policeman in the '20s. And, like many of his fellows he was a fine fiddler and singer, and like not so many, he had the good fortune and opportunity to make many 78 rpm records during the heyday of old-time commercial recording, the '20s, and into the '30s. This disc is but a representative sample of his music. He can also be heard on one cut of the mouth-music disc reviewed in this issue, and he performs mouth-music here as well - often singing a fiddle tune and then fiddling it in a kind of one-man-band fashion.

This is a delightful recording, and it grew on me as I listened to it. At first I though it might fall into the "popular Irish" side of things - over there where Irish eyes are smiling and (as my daughter says) omygod it's, it's, it's . . . Brigadoon! Not so. Quinn is a fine, clean fiddler - not so spectacular as his contemporary Michael Coleman, but well worth learning from. And his songs range from the political ("The Shan Van Vough," which is a wonderfully mysterious title but speaks to Irish independence and must have a meaning known to some OTH reader) to the historical ("Far Away in Australia") to the possibly double entendemic ("One Night I Came Home To My Kitty"), to the sentimental ("An Irish Farewell"). There are also a couple of fine duets with an unnamed woman singer, and these put me in mind of my favorite Irish duet, Sean McGowan of the Pogues and Kristie McColl singing "Christmas Eve in the Drunk Tank." In fact, hearing Frank Quinn sing these songs of immigration, of sailing off to Australia and such, put the Pogues into a deeper context for me - McGowan cannot be unaware of these optimistic precedents. Whatever, if you enjoy Irish music and are interested in it's early recorded manifestations, Frank Quinn should be part of your collection.

Wm.N.Hicks

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The Rhythm Rats - I Believe I'll Go Back Home
Marimac CD-9069D

Kenny Jackson-fiddle, banjo, guitar, vocals; Paula Bradley-guitar, banjo-uke, vocals; Whitt Mead-fretted and fretless banjos, fiddle.

Jenny Get Around/Little Stream of Whiskey-Texas Gals/Prodigal Son/Christmas Eve/Pallet on the Floor/When the Snowflakes Fall Again/Polly Put the Kettle On/Indian Eat the Woodchuck/Fair Miss in the Garden/Jenny Lynn/Blackberry Blossom/Little Carpenter/Possum Hollow/Aged Mother/Wolves a-Howlin'/Through the Garden Gate.

I hate it when a recording comes out with all the songs on it I was going to put on my own recording if I ever made one. But here they are, my favorites-Jim Bowles's "Christmas Eve," Marcus Martin's "Polly Put the Kettle On," the Carter Family's "Aged Mother." And also some gems I don't remember hearing before that I wish I'd heard first so I could appropriate them-"When the Snowflakes Fall Again," and "Little Carpenter."

It's clear that the Rhythm Rats listen carefully to the best old music, study it, and try to get it right. And then when they sit down to play together, that scholarly concentration retreats and the good music comes forth, songs and tunes reshaped a bit to fit the band. Here's a raggy "Pallet on Your Floor" with banjo-uke back up; a masterful and twisty string-band version of "Blackberry Blossom" (Ed Morrison's) with just the right "wrong" notes; a whip-quick and old-sounding "Wolves A-Howlin."

As for the individual instruments, I admire Jackson's touch on the bow: he'll grip a note and let it go, slide over it, fold it in on itself, but all in the quick course of a tune, so you don't hear the mechanics of it, just the rich texture. I also admire Mead's fine banjo ability to be the string band's "secret leader." His playing has a clarity that pushes forward as the phrases turn. He and Bradley-on clear yet perfectly blending guitar-are completely unified as a rhythm section. The interlocked strum of the guitar and downstroke of the banjo are more than back-up; they remind me of Kentucky's old Jimmy Johnson String Band in that the back-up instruments play as much a part as the fiddle in shaping the tune.

Yet the Rhythm Rats sound like the same band even when the members switch instruments. I always think of Jackson as the fiddler, Bradley as the guitar player, and Mead as the banjo player, but when I look closely at this CD's notes I see that's not the pattern here. Jackson carries forth some powerful Dock Boggs-style picking on "Prodigal Son," and Mead fiddles the long melody lines on "When the Snowflakes Fall Again" and "Little Carpenter." We find Mead on fiddle in a few string band tunes, and the album closes with a lovely double-fiddled waltz.

We are treated also to some fine singing by Jackson, who takes the lead on "Prodigal Son," and by Bradley, who beautifully sustains a long ballad, "Fair Miss in the Garden." The trouble with this modern age of recording is that every little shift in vocal quality stands out-though that happens rarely here. The singing on "Wolves A-Howling," with some high hooting and clear lively verses, is just right. And the other singing is very good-it's just not as expressively developed as, say, Cliff Perry and Laurel Bliss, or Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin.

I've been thinking about the push and pull between old and new in old-time music. The musicians I admire most are those who try as hard as they can to get exactly right the sounds of their favorite old sources. It's marvellous when we can figure out those subtle techniques, and when we can sound just like our teachers and inspirations. But I'm not sure there's a point in putting on a commercial CD music that sounds exactly like music that already exists on commercial CD, as, what with all these great re-issues, so much now does. The new music I love best to hear on recordings (I think) is that which tries like hell to not sound new, which does its darndest to emulate its sources, but that, despite itself, sounds a little different. That's why I like the Rhythm Rats. Their "Prodigal Son," though clearly based on Dock Boggs's version, sounds slightly different simply because it has been adapted to a string band setting. In Jackson's fiddling we clearly hear the feel and detail of the source, whether Marcus Martin, Ed Haley, or John Salyer, yet the music sounds like no one but Jackson, though the distinctions are difficult to pinpoint.

Another example of how to respect the past is the tune "Jenny Lynn." Jackson, who plays it beautifully, learned it from Birch Monroe, who learned it from his famous Uncle Pen and played it on Uncle Pen's fiddle. I'd much rather hear the past commemorated in this rich and sweet fiddle tune than in a nostalgic song with a hokey shuffled fiddle break in the middle. (I love Bill Monroe in general, but his song "Uncle Pen" to me represents all that can go wrong with good musical intentions.)

The best production for old-time music is invisible; that is, the music sounds like you're sitting next to it, as if nothing's been done to it: no phasers, shifters, reverberators. But in order to get music to sound like nothing's been done to it, sometimes lots has to be done to it. Therefore I praise Bob Carlin for the "insight" the notes credit him with-he knows how to produce invisibly.

Molly Tenenbaum

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Don Stover and Mac Martin - Live at The Moose
White Oak 103

Don Stover-banjo and vocal / Mac Martin-guitar and vocal.

Down in Union County/My Cabin In Caroline/Tragic Romance/What a Friend we Have in Jesus/Katy Cline/Earl's Breakdown/The Wandering Boy/Old Reuben #1/The Old Man's Story/Talking Blues/Over the Hills To The Poorhouse/Cripple Creek- The Ballad of Jed Clampett/Your Love is Like a Flower/Roll On Buddy/Darling Nellie Across the Sea/Sitting on Top of the World.

Here's a cassette of an informal live concert of mostly old-time songs and tunes by the late, great banjoist Don Stover in duet with Pittsburgh area bluegrass stalwart Mac Martin. Don Stover had this super-crunchy right hand and such a vocal-like left hand. He had the mind of a vocalist (he was a fine singer, too) as he played the banjo-his solos had a wonderful melodic integrity that was also very country, old- time, down-home, and superbly enjoyable. Over the years he recorded some of the very best bluegrass style banjo I've ever heard, but this 1992 impromptu show at the Moose Lodge in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania is not where you'll hear it. While this seriously flawed recording is not without its moments of inspiration and brilliance-perhaps even of genius-the listener has to sit through and awful lot of chaos to get to the good parts.

One of the problems is the mix, taken-as is-"off the board" at the show. The banjo and guitar are decently balanced, but the vocals are far too loud in proportion to the instruments. Sometimes necessary volume and EQ adjustments that make sense in the particular acoustic environment of a room make for unbalanced tape recordings. Perhaps that is what happened here. When I have to choose between straining to hear the instruments or being blasted by the vocals-well, I'll just choose to listen to some other tape.

Rhythm is another problem. The liner notes indicate that Stover and Martin are playing much of their repertoire "together for virtually the first time." Most of the music on this tape is "virtually" grooveless. There is no rhythmic unity at all until the sixth piece and then even the two players don't always agree on the beat for the remainder of the program. There is a nearly continuous rhythmic strain between Martin's easy lope and Stover's forward propulsion that makes for some very uncomfortable listening. The notes also promise "incredible creativity going on 'behind the scenes' as (Stover) lays down one imaginative backup phrase after another during Mac's vocals." While there is some of this-occasionally (and it is very, very good)-usually Stover is playing the usual stuff.

If you've got a spare ten-er and want to hear one great performance ("Old Reuben #1", with superb vocals by Stover and guitar and (clawhammer) banjo that definitely agree rhythmically,) five other pretty good renditions, some local ambiance and hillbilly humor, and a few scattered moments of banjo brilliance, this is the tape for you. Otherwise, check out Mac Martin on his Dixie Travelers recordings and Don Stover with The Lilly Brothers. Listen to Cold, Grey Tomb of Stone and see if you still think bluegrass banjo playing is tiresome and mechanical. See if you're still breathing.

Jody Stecher

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Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers - A Corn Licker Still in Georgia
Voyager 303 CD (reissue of 1970 LP, reissue of 78s) (46:07)

Poor Drunkard (Rye Whiskey)/Soldier's Joy/Slim Gal/Black-Eyed Susie/Pass Around the Bottle/Katy Hill/Leather Breeches/Sweet Adeline/Possum Up A Gum Stump (Hell Broke Loose in Georgia)/Little Brown Jug/Liberty/Hungry Hash House/How Dry I Am/Roll 'Em Boys, Roll 'Em/St. Louis Tickle/Way Down in Jail On My Knees/Hand Me Down My Walking Cane/Home Sweet Home/Going DownThe Long Lonesome Road/We're Here Because We're Here/Peas and Cornbread (Rocky Pallet)/Pass Around the Bottle/Back Home in the Mountains (Citaco)/Flatwoods/Going Down That Road Feeling Good/Cotton Eyed Joe/The Old Hen She Cackled/Going Up The Road Feeling Bad/unnamed blues/Broke Down Gambler/Nigger in the Woodpile/Done Gone/Prisoner's Song/Chinese Breakdown/Back Up And Push/Cumberland Valley Waltz/Coming 'Round the Mountain/Little Brown Jug.

Clayton McMichen-fiddle; Riley Puckett-guitar; Gid Tanner-fiddle; Fate Norris-banjo; Lowe Stokes-fiddle; Bert Layne-fiddle(only on last disc); with "Slim," "Bill Brown," "Tom Sly," and others (all speak).

"Hear, hear. We can't have all this fuss around here! If we're going to make this liquor, why, let's make it and get through with it. Riley? You go up there on the hill and bring that thumper keg down here and bring that rye paste with you," spoke Clayton McMichen at the beginning of what would become a 7-disc, 14-sided skit for one of the most popular hillbilly bands of the '20s, North Georgia's Skillet Lickers. This skit played on the general public's stereotyped image of the moonshining southern mountaineers who passed time fiddling around. The Corn Licker Still in Georgia series was enormously popular in its own time and engendered countless imitations, but none as well-written as this set. Some critics get annoyed with this format because they want the songs and tunes in their entirety, and nothing but, but I like the skits because they allow some of the personalities of the band members to come forth. Mac (McMichen) was undiputably the leader, the driving force, and he is in the forefront throughout this skit. In later interviews he would reveal his disdain for the hillbilly image and for some of his fellow band members, so many of his comments here become more poignant in retrospect: to Tanner, while "in jail," "Now Gid, you got six months to stay in here and I think you ought to catch up with your fiddling in that time; looks like you're a little behind with it all the time." And in an earlier interchange between Gid and Mac, Gid says, "Well, Brown wanted us to play a tune or two, and we got it for him. . ." to which Mac replies, "Brown-Hell!! Brown ain't a-running this place. I'm running it myself. If you're gonna work for me, I want you to work, and put that lousy fiddle up. That's all you've done since we took him in, it's see-saw, see-saw on that lousy fiddle."

The Skillet Lickers were quite prolific, even more so if one counts all the spin-off and related bands as well as solo and duet sides by various members. Even so, a few of the pieces found here in abbreviated form were not recorded elsewhere. It's a great pleasure to hear the band go after these rare, fine pieces of music, even in these shortened forms. In my early days of seeking 78s, one could easily find some of these Corn Licker Still recordings, but one had do some digging to find all of them. That's about when Phil and Vivian Williams shared some of their large 78 collection (and some 78s in the collection of Howard Myers, to complete the 14-side set) by issuing the LP version of this skit, which came out in 1970. Over the next few years, I heard many of these tunes, done in Skillet Licker style, at fiddlers conventions, and from time-to-time, I'd hear segments of the dialogue in old-time music campgrounds.

"Well fellas, here's our new home. Good sign we got up here: The Hen Cackle Inn, home of good fried chicken, old fashioned dance music, and that big question mark up there! All of you know what that means, don't you?" I recall many a reference to that Question Mark. A customer states, "Well Mac, you've got a mighty nice place here to have a good time; good eats and good music, but I ain't no camel." "No, and brother this ain't no desert neither. How much do you want?" replies Mac.

I find I am reliving a lot of my (perhaps misguided?) youth in listening to these sides once again. I loved the music of the Skillet Lickers back then and I still love it now. I love their rustic humor, the mixture of fiddle music, the swamp opera. This is a very enjoyable set for me. The CD has fine sound, somewhat clearer than the LP. (Voyager digitally remastered the CD using the LP master tape rather than going back to the 78s themselves, and used digital noise reduction techniques, including CardDPlus.) The packaging has brief notes on the band personnel and also includes a glossary of moonshining terminolgy: "swab stick - a stick with a rag on it used to clean the still" &q; "double back - distilling the mash a second time, with additional meal and sugar," as examples. Vivian has also made a gallant attempt at identifying all the tunes and songs in the skits, even the very brief fragments (my list at the head of this review varies slightly with her results).

This set may not be for everyone, but as I said above, I found it very entertaining. I don't think there was a more boisterous lot. "Pass Around the Bottle and We'll All Take a Drink, As we go marching on!"

To order: Voyager Recordings, 424 35th Avenue, Seattle WA 98122

Kerry Blech

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Cory Webster, Lewis Downey, Richard McClane, & Tom Smart - Down in Utah

Come Thy Font of Every Blessing/Whoa, Haw, Buck and Jerry Boy - Turkey in the Straw/The George Madison Waltz/Down in Utah/Spat Waltz/Over the Ocean Deep/Simple Gifts/All are Talking of Utah - Johnson's Army Rag/Ollie, They all Call Me Ollie/Big Foot Taylor's Waltz/I'd like to Be a Mormon - Golden Slippers/The Chicago Glide/Have Courage, My Boy, To Say No/The old Schottische/The Rye Waltz/On the Road to California - Skunk in a Collard Patch - Seneca Square Dance/Jimmy Allen/Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief/The Baltimore/Martha , Won't you Drink Some Good Old Hard Cider/Hard Times/The Jewel/Rebecca/Brigham Young, Western Pioneer/The Varsouvienne Waltz/Tunes from Home Schottische/Come Thy Font of Every Blessing; Come, Come, Ye Saints.

I haven't yet figured out if Down in Utah is the title of this cassette release or the name of the musical group. If the latter, then I guess the title is They Think We Live on Carrots, a line from the song "I'd Like to Be A Mormon." The music is played by 10 musicians in various combinations using a large variety of instruments: guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, banjo-mandolin, piano, button accordion, concertina, tenor banjo, mandolin, mountain dulcimer, penny whistle, autoharp and bowed psaltery. The core of the group seems to be Cory Webster, Lewis Downey, Richard McClane, and Tom Smart, who play on most cuts. A few of the musicians are on only one or a couple of the selections.

he liner notes state that "these pioneer melodies, dance tunes, and old-time songs are our attempt to recapture the feel of homemade music in early Utah." Some of this repertoire comes from the Thacker family: fiddler Leroy, his wife Weltha and daughter Pattie, a band that played dances around their part of Utah. Pattie joins on this recording for about half the numbers providing piano backup and accordion

. I suppose you could call this a concept album with "sound scenes" to help you imagine yourself attending an early Utah dance. As you arrive, during breaks to step outside for air, during the band's intermission, and so on, you hear the sounds of a crackling fire, crickets, muffled conversation, a thunderstorm, and some musical tidbits appropriate to the campfire. But the dance is the thing and we are served up a healthy dose of waltzes, schottisches, reels, specialty dances like "The Rye Waltz," "The Baltimore," and "The Varsouvienne," and some songs for good measure.

This is a fine historical representation of music in Utah in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Mormon songs like the humorous "Down in Utah," "All are Talking of Utah," "I'd Like to Be a Mormon," "Have Courage My Boy to Say No," and " On the Road to California" are excellent musical specimens from the time and area. Several of the dance tunes are rare while others whose titles you might not recognize are common tunes under regional names. "The Old Schottische" is "Flop-Eared Mule," "Johnson's Army Rag" is "Jordan Is a Hard Road to Travel" (or "Richmond Is a Hard Road to Travel" in the Civil War version), and "Big Foot Taylor's Waltz" is part of the "Saint Paul Waltz/Cattle Call" family. "The Spat Waltz," played as what we call a "butterfly" in the Midwest with the verse in 2/4 time and the chorus in 3/4, is the same as the "Peekaboo Waltz."

The notes are informative, giving sources for some, though not all, the selections. Unfortunately, "The Chicago Glide" was completely omitted in the notes. The music is pleasant, if not exceptional, marred by a few wrong notes or rhythm glitches and with singing less robust and harmonies at times less true than might be expected. The inevitable comparison with the Deseret String Band causes these folks to suffer, but they do cover some different material and offer a worthwhile package with some good sound quality. I enjoyed it and find it a good historical presentation of Utah's rich musical heritage.

To order: PO Box 520384, Salt Lake City, UT; 841-52-0384

Bob Bovee

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Various Artists - Anthology of American Folk Music
Smithsonian/Folkways 40090
Various Artists - Times Ain't Like They Used To Be
Yazoo 2028 & 2029
Various Artists - The Rose Grew Around The Briar
Yazoo 2030& 2031

Smithsonian/ Folkways has reissued Harry Smith's landmark 1952 Folkways LP set Anthology of American Folk Music on six compact discs ( each duplicates one of the six original LPs), each with an ambitious promotional budget geared to the novel notion that the set is of less importance in itself than it is as the collection which inspired the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, informing the likes of everyone from Joan Baez to the Fugs (good grief!).

Extensive notes by Rolling Stone's Griel Marcus and others pay curious tribute to compiler Smith, celebrating his semi-pariah status within the Greenwich Village avant-garde community ("polymath. . . autodidact. . . dope fiend and an alcoholic, a legendary experimental filmmaker and a more legendary sponger"), elevating his posthumous (1923-1991) status to that of folksong sainthood by focusing the spotlight on the compiler and thereby relegating the music he compiled to secondary status. Just in case the fat set of notes fails to make the point, you can take the last of the six CDs, put it into a computer and see clips from Harry's films, photos of Harry with Allen Ginsberg, Harry inarticulately receiving a Grammy and Harry with some collected American Indian artifacts. Quite your renaissance man and fa-a-r out dude, was Harry Smith.

Well, okay. Certainly the music can stand on its own legs and withstand being upstaged by Mr. Smith's celebrants. If it seems strange in this context to elevate addiction, deterioration, and funny movies over the artistry of Tom Ashley, John Hurt, the Carters, and Blind Lemon, the Smithsonian approach succeeds in turning a project which simply converts an old LP set to compact disc to a must-have souvenir for folk revival baby-boomers, sentimentally reuniting them with their vicarious rural roots and giving them the music that ostensibly inspired their musical and political heroes.

If this sound like a negative review, I don't mean for it to. Me, I would never have dreamed of such a good marketing ploy, nor would I have managed to turn a recycled set of ancient hillbilly, blues, and gospel music into a best-seller, projected, they tell me, to sell in excess of 30,000 units by Christmas.

And I have to give Harry Smith a lot of credit, too. In 1952, when jazz was the only 1920s music available on reissues, it took vision and courage to assemble a collection of early folk and vernacular music by unknown performers, to hear the music's integrity, and to annotate and assemble his selections into a thoughtful reissue project. Smith was able to ignore racial, stylistic, and regional divisions by allowing his materials to address a variety of topics under broad categories of narrative ballads, dance, and religious music and lyric songs, thus creating dialogues on agriculture between Charlie Patton and the Carolina Tar Heels, on ancient balladry between Tom Ashley, Coley Jones, and Buell Kazee, and on courtship between the Stonemans, Rabbit Brown, and Dock Boggs, allowing the listener to discover where their points of view varied and converged. Smith enhanced his collection by creating a delightfully idiosyncratic set of record notes which managed to appear simultaneously primitive and scholarly, and which aided the introduction of young urban listeners to remote musical traditions.

Not, of course, that any of this would have mattered if the music itself hadn't delivered such a wallop. And it did, recycling blues and hillbilly masterpieces from extinct regional record catalogues, and introducing Mississippi John, Uncle Dave, Uncle Bunt, jug stompers, and string bands to Folkways buyers weaned on Woody, Huddie, Pete, John Jacob Niles, and Susan Reed. Intuitively or otherwise, Harry Smith stumbled on a mother lode, created by record companies who fortunately saw their role simply as capturers of folk and regional music in situ. Later, the role of record makers inevitably evolved to become creators of mass-marketed lowest common denominator products destined for the least discriminating and widest possible audiences. How fortunate, then and now, that so much quality music was recorded beforehand under favorable conditions in the 1920s, and that it was inadvertently preserved for our time and times to follow.

For this reissue, Smithsonian project coordinator Jeff Place had to resort in many cases to 1951-2 tape transfers made by Peter Bartok (yes, Bela's son) for the original LP set. In other cases, collector copies of clean originals were available for transfer on the modern equipment. Inevitably sound quality varies from one track to the next, though it is never unacceptable.

For those who'd like to hear more of the same, and who enjoy the anthology format, Richard Nevins has been creating a series of old-time music collections in recent years for Shanachie's Yazoo label, containing material from the 1920s and 1930s which compares favorably in quality temperament and spirit to music in the Harry Smith set. Nevins' taste is usually impeccable and the quality of his sound restoration from 78s to CDs is, too. Double-CD sets get released every month or two, and unless you've heard most of those rare old 78s he has access to, you'll encounter exciting and surprising music with each new one. Times Ain't Like They Used to Be: Early American Rural Music, released last summer, contains encores from Pop Stoneman, Henry Thomas, Banmon Grayson, Cannon Jug Stompers, Uncle Dave Macon and others in the Smithsonian set, along with stellar performances by Bobby Leecan's Need More Band, Charlie Jordan, AA Gray, the Southern Moonlight Entertainers and others which may be new to most of us. At October's end another double set appeared, The Rose Grew 'Round the Briar: Early American Rural Love Songs, drawing yet more water from the same well with a judicious mixture of celebrated and obscure performers.

Notes on the Yazoo sets are minimal, with brief artist bios (at least when something of an artist is known) and nice vintage photos. There's little comment on the songs themselves, even though remarkable examples of narrative ballads, memorable blues and lyric songs, folk pieces and dance tunes abound. If this constitutes a demerit, it's made up for by generous timings (23 78rpm sides per CD) and by the relatively low cost, at least by comparison with the Smithsonian collection.

I've already picked a number of my own favorites, but I'll resist the temptation to list them. It'd be a long list, for one thing, and I wouldn't want to keep you from compiling lists of your own. I'll just allow myself to cheer Yazoo for unearthing extraordinary versions of "Silver Dagger" ("Wake Up, You Drowsy Sleeper") and "Poor Boy" ("Dollar Bill Blues"), and for getting nice transfers of "I Truly Understand You Love Another Man" and "Look On And Cry" onto CD for the first time. That's Clyde Moody singing that powerful lead to Wade Mainer's tenor on that last one, by the way.

Dick Spottswood

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Various Artists - Fiddle Jam Sessions
Voyager VRCD 301

Byron Berline, Dave Frisbee, J.C. Gentle, Don Gish, Bill Long, Pete McMahan, Bud Meredith, Bill Mitchell, Lonnie Pierce, Llwewllyn Sexsmith, Texas Shorty, Fay Sneed, Ora Spiva, Loyd Wanzer, Jim Widner, Don Wiles, Vivian Williams, Dwayne Youngblood, fiddles; back up musicians mostly unidentified.

Sourwood Mountain/Grey Eagle/Bill Cheatham/East Tennessee Blues/Devil's Dream/Jean LaTippe/Lost Indian/Hell Among the Yearlings/Swinging Fiddles/Jack of Diamonds/Sally Goodin/Sally Johnson/Leather Britches/Arkansas Traveller/Black Mountain Rag/Fort Smith/Sally Johnson, Katy Hill/Flop-Eared Mule/The Waltz of the Bluegrass/Monroe's Hornpipe/Apple Blossom/Arkansas Traveller/Rye Whiskey/Wagonner/Snow Deer/Turkey in the Straw/Bailey's/Cluck Old Hen/Cluck Old Hen/Spotted Pony/Fishers Hornpipe/Whiskey Before Breakfast/Eighth of January/Victory Breakdown/Cacklin' Hen/Charleston Number Two/Possum Up The Gum Stump/Lost Indian/Leather Britches/Fiddlin' Rag/Hell On The Wabash/Sally Goodin.

This CD is a reissue of Voyager LPs Fiddle Jam Session (1967) and More Fiddle Jam Sessions (1972). These comprised field recordings by Vivian Williams, Phil Williams, and Richard Ponshock, made at various fiddlers conventions in the Pacific Northwest in this time period - mostly at Weiser in various years, but including as well festivals in Missoula, Montana, Port Orchard, Washington, and the Tenino Old Time Music Festival. There are some gems on this CD, including early work by Byron Birline - "Monroe's Hornpipe," "Lost Indian," and "Apple Blossom." As you might expect, most of the fiddling is pretty western style. The recording quality also varies, unsurprisingly, one cut being closely miked and clean, the next more distant, some cuts fading in, others out, with even a few places where there have been internal edits, probably for good reasons. The popular Texas-style practice of tight double fiddling is well represented here, one fiddle playing a real harmony line in more or less unison rhythm to the other. If you liked the old County Kenny Baker/Joe Greene albums you already know what I'm referring to.

Obviously this CD is a sort of historical document, preserving the ambience of Weiser, in particular, during it's period of seminal influence, and more generally, reflecting what many good fiddlers in the Northwest scene were playing a little bit prior to the era we have now entered, where fiddling in all the world styles is reasonably available to anyone with a CD player and an interest. There is no hint of Irish playing here, or Appalachian playing, or Nova Scotian playing, just straight ahead western contest playing, hard and fast for the most part, and not too careful either, since these players are just being captured in sessions, not on stage.

If any or all those characteristics motivate you to purchase this CD, great. I would say, on the down side, that the tune list is pretty standard. Or at least that's a down side if you already play these tunes or want to. On the other hand (now I'm up to three hands I guess), Ray Osborne's "Cacklin' Hen" is the best. I can just see that damn chicken prancing around the yard.

Wm. N. Hicks

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Various Artists - Fiddlers of Western Prince Edward Island
Rounder CD 7014

Eddy Arsenault, Peter Arsenault, Sidney Baglole, Anastasia DesRoches, Peter Doiron, Adam Driscoll, Z"lie-lie-Anne Arsenault Gaudet, Warren Leard, Harry Lecky, Leonard McDonald, Dennis Pitre, Alton Silliker-fiddles; with variously, Vincent Doucette-guitar; Irene Gallant-piano; Hélen Arsenault Bergeron-electronic keyboard; Grady Poe-guitar; Armand Arsenault-guitar; Margaret Ross MacKinnon-pump organ, piano, electronic keyboard; Megan Bergeron-electronic keyboard; Bernice Leard-piano; Eugene Gallant-guitar; Paul Mark McDonald-guitar; George Brothers-guitar; Jaques Arsenault-guitar; Florence Young-piano; Zélie-Anne Arsenault Gaudet, harmonica.

Island Boy/Acadian Reel/The Brae Reel/Princess Reel/Denny Pitre's Reel/The Dragger's Reel/River Jig, Mary Hughes' Jig, Shandon Bells/The Miramiche Fire (west P.E.I. version)/Beautiful Sunday/Farmer's Reel/The Twin Sisters (Pidgeon on the Gatepost)/Herring Reel/Sugar in the Gourd/Heather's Breakdown/The House of MacDonald/Homeward Bound, Jerome's Farewell/Carlton County Breakdown/Sidney Baglole's Reel/Rippling Waters Jig/Money Musk/Joe MacKinnon's Reel/High Level Hornpipe/White River Stomp/Latex Jig/St. Anne's Reel (west P.E.I. version)/Old Timer's Reel/Great George Street Waltz/Ottawa Valley Reel/Zella's Harmonica Reel/Tavern in the Town/St. Anne's Reel (mouth music).

Various Artists - Fiddlers of Eastern Prince Edward Island
Rounder CD 7015

J.J. Chaisson, Peter Chaisson, Jr., Peter Chaisson, Sr., George MacPhee, Angus MacPhee, Attwood O'Connor, Archie Stewart, Carl Webster, Jackie Webster, Elliot Wright-fiddles; with variously, Kevin Chaisson-electronic keyboard, piano; Judy Lowe-electronic keyboard; Ed Drover-guitar; Margaret Ross MacKinnon-pump organ; Stanley Bruce-guitar; Paul MacDonald-guitar; Daisy McAllan-guitar; Chester MacSwain-guitar; Monroe Wheeler-electric piano; Ken Perlman-5-string banjo; Murial Jay-piano.

The P.E.I. Wedding Reel, Big John MacNeil/Fiddlin' Phil/Blue Mountain Hornpipe/The Watermelon/ Lord MacDonald's Reel, The Chaisson Reel/Green Fields of America/Pride of the Ball, the Drunken Piper/Maid on the Green, Kenmure's Awa'/MacSwain's Reel/North Side Tune/Souris Breakwater/Miss Lyall Strathspey, The Clumsey Lover, Sleeping Maggie, The Black Mill (Muilean Dubb)/Stan's Jig/The Walk on Water Reel/Jay's Reel/The East Newk of Fife/Isle of My Birth/The Milltown Cross Fire/Tarbolton Lodge, The Burnt Leg/Liberty Two-Step/MacKinnon's Rant, Johnny Cope Reel/Cock of the North, Uncle Jim/Johnny's Reel/The Miramichi Fire (east P.E.I. version)/The Haggis, The Bird's Nest/The Rose in the Garden/Paddy on the Turnpike/Mr. Murray, The Miller o'Drone, The Dusky Meadow, The Yetts of Muckart, Miss Lyall Reel, Picnic Reel, Little Donald in the Pigpen/Nelly Grey.

There are many ways on many levels to laud this, Ken Perlman's, magnificent recording project. Mr. Perlman has spent several years studying the music of Prince Edward Island, and has previously published a tune-book, The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island: Celtic and Acadian Tunes in Living Tradition (Mel Bay, 1996) which includes most of these tunes in written form. It is only with this background that Perlman could have accomplished the daunting project he describes in his fine and detailed notes to these CDs: "Sound engineer Paul MacDonald and I had just eight days to record this project. We logged a couple of thousand miles of driving, conducted over twenty recording sessions in fiddlers' kitchens and parlors, and amassed about twenty-five hours of raw tape." Accomplish it he did. So, on one level we have before us this amazing musical portrait of a whole subculture of fiddling, fiddler after fiddler, all with their own styles (though Perlman does explicitly stress this fairly obvious distinction between east P.E.I. and west P.E.I. styles by dividing the two CDs along these lines, the former distinguished more by Acadian motifs, the later by Cape Breton and Scotish resonances, particularly in bow technique). Indeed, should one ever want to spend time studying the whole concept-I can imagine a very dry and dusty advanced fiddle class at somewhere like Augusta called "Fiddle Style: What the Hell Is It?"-this two volume set of CDs could certainly serve as the text. Envision a similar set called, say, "West Virginia Fiddling," or "Missouri Fiddling." Scary, isn't it?

One of the most wonderful things about this project is the fact that almost no one recorded herein is in any sense a professional musician. There is thus this portraiture aspect to the CDs that I find thrilling-a musical picture of this remote place, which most of us have never seen, or might only see from the air maybe (I drove across the island, once, in l968, on the way to Cape Breton; I remember only green and flat). There is this intimacy here, of these kitchens and parlors Perlman mentions, of the whoops and laughs that end some of the tunes. On the Western CD, Eddy Arsenault introduces his own "Draggers' Reel" by saying, "I was draggin' for flounder and cod, and the motor was makin' so much noise, and . . . I got annoyed with that, with the noise, y'know, and I said to meself, I said, "I'm goin' to make a tune outa that, I get so tired of that," so I come home one night and I made a tune, and I called it "The Dragger's Reel." And it's a good one. It's like Rev. Gary Davis once sang: "I heard a little voice inside my watch sayin' 'Little more faith in Jesus.'"

Yet P.E.I. is not so isolated that there aren't wisps of tunes almost everyone knows, but played the P.E.I. way. This is maybe the best way to understand style. Perhaps the most striking of these is "St. Anne's Reel" on the Western volume. As Perlman says, "The common North American tune, 'St. Anne's Reel' . . . first reached the Island in the 1930s via broadcasts from Qu"bec.bec. Since step-dancers were unable to get good lift from the tune in its original form, alterations had to be made in its melody . . . as can be heard in the version by Dennis Pitre..." (If this were written in hyper-text or Java or something, you could now hear a snatch of the tune by clicking on it's title [much copyright red tape need be waded through before this happens - BPS] -Oh well, buy the collection!) A nice thing to do on a cold winter's night would be to read Shipping News by the fire with these CDs playing in the background. Now put the book down for a minute and think about what the phrase "good lift" might mean.

At another level, when I said the musicians aren't professionals, I didn't mean they aren't very good players. Most play for local dances, and would surely be a joy to dance to. (They give "good lift.") Though the accompanying pianos and guitars (and pump organs!!) are sometimes too far back in the mix for my taste, the backup is also great, and well worth studying and thinking about. Indeed, if you are a player, and are feeling like your repertoire of dance tunes is getting, well, stale, just sit down and learn some of these tunes. I'll bet no one on your block is playing "Island Boy" or "The Miramichi Fire," east or west P.E.I. versions, as yet. And do work on the "Cock of the North/Uncle Jim" medley. With these tunes under your belt, or in your noggin, or wherever tunes get stored, you'll surely get more calls to play for dances.

I seem to be awash in superlatives. Do you get the picture? (The CD booklets feature great photos of all the fiddlers. Surprise!) Get these two CDs. Listen to them a whole lot. That's an order.

Wm. N. Hicks

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Various Artists - Mexican-American Border Music - Vol. IV; Orquestas Tipicas "Pioneer Mexican-American Dance Orchestras" 1926-1938
Arhoolie/Folklyric 7017
Various Artists - Mexican-American Border Music - Vol. V Orquestas de Cuerdas "The End of a Tradition" 1926-1938
Arhoolie/Folklyric 7018

It's probably hard for us to believe it, but as little as two generations ago the accordion was basically unheard of in Mexican-American music. If it was heard, it would be in the bordellos, accompanying sordid noon-time "dollar-a-dance" soirees, or in the rough cantinas on the fringe of town where the respectable folk wouldn't be caught dead. Proper entertainment was provided by the string based Orquestas Tipicas, playing a wide variety of popular and folk tunes. It wasn't until the rise of radio and the estimable talents of accordionists like Narcisco Martinez and Bruno Villareal that the accordion shed it's "gutter" image. Today, however, the only sound of fiddles in the plaza in San Antonio is from the modern Mariachi. Though they may appear similar from the outside, they were in fact quite different, as this collection shows.

On Orquestas Tipicas the "typical Orchestra" was anything but it appears, and we have a wide range of ensembles represented, in many seemingly unlikely combinations. There's a Sousa-styled brass band with slide steel guitar (Banda Chihuahua,) groups of violins and trumpets closer to what we know as Mariachi today , but with a full sax section as well (Orq. Thomas Nunez,) a guitar and sax duo (Jose Maria Arrendondo Trio!!,) and mandolin Orchestras as fine as you're likely to encounter, (Orq. de la Famila Ramos and Quinteto Tipico Mexicana.)

The types of songs presented reads like a laundry list of lost Mexican-American dance steps. You got your polkas y valses, to be certain. But then there's danzons, one-steps, foxtrots, vals bajito, chotis, mazurka, tango, marcha and my all time favorite, the lusty pasodoble.

The CD is laid out somewhat chronologically, which aids greatly in understanding the transition of the Orquesta sound through the years. Contrast the stately, almost Vienesse vals "Alicia" (Jose Perche Enriquez Orchestra, '28) to the nearly not-for-note reading of Joe Venuti's "Jig in G" (Emilio Caceres, '34,) not coincidentally a tune favored by Anglo Western Swing bands of the area as well.

This is not "old-time" music in the narrow definition, these are genteel performances from seasoned performers. But it is music of the "old time," and thoroughly enjoyable glimpse of the Mexican-American music scene now long since forgotten.

Much the same can be said for the next volume, Orquestas de Cuerdas which also features many of the same artists. Originally released on LP, the CD has twice the material and twice the surprises of the original release. The liner notes suggest that these recordings represent smaller, more informal, groups, with "closer ties to other vernacular traditions," so the liner notes indicate. To my ear, it just means smaller bands, and a wider range of material.

From the opening polka, El Ciego Melquiades (literally, The Blind Fiddler) illustrates clearly just what Tex-Mex conjunto must have sounded like in the days before the accordion. His trio, with string bass and bajo sexto, is no different than the conjuntos that Don Santiago Jimenez popularized in San Antonio of the '30s, substituting fiddle for his accordion.

Among the many revelations are the mandolin led Trio Alegre de San Antonio on several selections of danzon and vals. Truly fascinating is The Medina River Boys, Andale, Vamos Platicano, (cancion-polka) whose Hawaiian steel guitar would be right at home in any hot Western Swing outfit. And in another example of how we do things here in Texas, Al Hopkin's Buckle Busters are found moonlighting under the sobriquet "Los Alegres" on the Czech-Bohemian waltz Marosovia, a tune still in the conjunto repertoire.

Fiddle music has been, and continues to be, an important component of the folk musics of many parts of Mexico. Early examples of Huastecan fiddling (Trovadores Tamipulas) and early Jaliscan Mariachi (Mariachi Tapatio de Juan Marmolejo) are included for good measure. But that is Mexican music, only a component of the Mexican-American experience, now defined by the accordion. There is, to my knowledge, only one fiddler left today playing a wholly Mexican-American repertoire, and even he must play accordion to make a living. The liner notes refer to the unlikely rebirth of Banda music in the last decade, hopefully positing the same could happen for the fiddle. Maybe so, but listening to these 2 CDs, we can come close to just a glimmer of what was once a thriving string tradition.

Mark Rubin

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Various Artists - A Musical Journey-The Films of Pete, Toshi & Dan Seeger 1957-1964
Vestapol Videos 13042
(58 min., black and white>
Sonny Terry & JC Burris-Crazy About You/Buck Dance/Buck Dance Variation/Hand Jive
Jean Carignan-La Grand Fleur/Interview/Sherbrook Jig/Irish Tune
Ellis Unit, Huntsville, Texas-Working All Day Long/Grizzly Bear/Down The Line/I Believe I'll Call My Baby
Big Bill Broonzy-Worried Man's Blues? Hey Hey/How You Want it Done?/John Henry/Blues in E
The McPeake Family-Jug of Punch/Will You Go Lassie Go?/Instrumental/Oro Se Beacht
Pete Steele-Pay Day at Coal Creek/Coal Creek March/Galilee
Oklahoma Fiddle Contest
Schuyler Michaels
- Two Tunes/Waltz/Soldier's Joy.

For some time now, Stefan Grossman, through his Vestapol series, has been making available high quality musical "footage" that was hitherto dispersed, inaccessible or virtually lost. He's gathered these performances from documentary and commercial and "art" films, from old television shows and various video formats. Here's an outstanding compilation taken from home movies taken by Pete, Toshi and Dan Seeger during their travels and stored in their barn for over 30 years.

Did you ever wonder exactly how Pete Steele played "The Coal Creek March" and "Pay Day At Coal Creek?" Here he is, playing at home, wearing an checked shirt that matches his fingerboard inlays, and the banjo technique is as clear as day. It's glorious. He does another piece too, and in each piece he picks up the banjo in a slightly different way.

There's a series of short segments taken at a fiddle contest in Oklahoma in 1957 that is absolutely fascinating. This is from an era just before the western contest fiddling style "made perma-press out of 'Leather Britches,'" (as Kenny Hall ably put it). This is real old-time fiddling and good music. In the accompanying well assembled booklet, written by Mary Katherine Aldin, in which Pete Seeger is quoted extensively concerning his memories of the filming sessions, Seeger admits to being "not a good folklorist." So we don't know the names of the players and the tune names are not given. The latter are not hard to recognize. We hear good and unusual versions of Say Old Man, Can You Play a Fiddle?, Soldier's Joy, a good tune you can hear the fiddler tell his accompanist is Grey Eagle, but sounds like parts of tunes I know by other names, Mississippi Sawyer, and The Mardi Gras Jig, of all things! I watched that one with my eyes like saucers. I wonder if the fiddler was a Cajun on vacation.

Then there's Big Bill Broonzy's last session filmed at a summer camp in Michigan. He had an operation the very next day and never sang again. I've always enjoyed listening to Broonzy's recordings and the appreciation is deepened by the visual dimension. His relaxed attitude, signature fingerstyle and surprising two-finger E chord are all there to see. About the latter, it's right there up there with Ina Patterson's thumb-on-the-bass G chord that some OTH readers from the Western states might recall. And he does one of my favorite old Big Bill songs, How Do You Want it Done?, played in G with a flatpick. He recorded way back in 1932, I believe, and it has all the stock-in-trade flat-picked G licks that are now associated with bluegrass music. I wonder if this was how Bill Monroe's blues mentor, Arnold Shultz played guitar.

There is a 1964 "historic re-enactment" by prisoners in a Texas penitentiary. Each man has an ax and a white hat and outfit. Following the vocal cues of the song leader they fell several trees and then chop them into smaller logs, while singing the kind of songs that used to accompany this kind of work, before the prison used chain saws. The haunting music is unforgettable, especially a song called "Working All Day Long."

That's not all. There's Sonny Terry doing some uncharacteristic out-blowing, having a buckdancing contest with his nephew J.C. Burris, and playing "The Chicken Reel." There's the famous Quebecois fiddler Jean Carignan playing French Scottish and Irish tunes with alternating long sweeps and single bowing and doing an impression of Southern fiddling that is something like "Sally Goodin'" in D. Then there's the bizarre but inexplicably affecting music of the McPeake Family of Belfast (what other band needs or wants their entire instrumentation to consist of two harps and three sets of Uilleann bagpipes-whose players are each and all named Francie McPeake!!) They do their most famous songs and it's great. The only disappointment in this video is the final segment of some so-so fiddling. I do wish there were more Oklahoma fiddle footage and I wonder what other films the Seeger's have in their barn. This video should be in every library in America and shown on prime-time television. Some of you might want one too.

Jody Stecher

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Video Review
Kilby Snow, Dock Boggs, Tommy Jarrell, and Roscoe Holcomb - Shady Grove: Old Time Music from North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia
Vestapol 13071

This video features four truly wonderful and important artists performing several tunes each. Each musician sits in a chair and plays; nothing is added-there is no narration, no voice-over, and only the most minimal of titles. The accompanying booklet, written by Jody Stecher, makes up for this plainness with extensive biographical information, interesting anecdotes, some great photos (including one of Tommy Jarrell taken about 1917), and detailed notes on the tunes. It is an odd combination: a booklet suitable for a beginner's introduction to old time music, and a video for the hard-core only.

The Dock Boggs footage is the prize of this video. According to the box, this is the "only known footage" of him, and I don't know otherwise. He sings three songs, his classic "Country Blues," "Pretty Polly," and "I Hope I Live," and he tells the story of how he auditioned and then traveled to New York to make his first recordings. He mentions having "domestic troubles" that caused him to give up music and go back to mining. He keeps an underlying and perhaps ironic smile going throughout the music (even introducing "I Hope I Live" as "a love song"), and seems an utterly charming man. It's great to get a personal sense of him, and great also to see his banjo playing and hear his singing up close. The booklet describes his playing in detail, and gives the banjo tunings, while in the video there are several good shots of his right hand. On "I Hope I Live" he does several of his chilling vocal shivers, and we see that no outrageous contortions take over his face or throat. In fact, he doesn't look at all like his music sounds: I think of his music as deep and dark and strange and tough; but here he is, a friendly man in a shirt and tie, with all this amazing music coming out of him.

The footage of Kilby Snow and the footage of Roscoe Holcomb are equally good. We can watch the way Snow holds the autoharp flat, and the way he gets melody and pick-up notes by stopping his finger and drawing it up two or three strings. His fluid and relaxed wrist will probably be an inspiration to any musician, not only autoharpists. What he can do with the autoharp is amazing-the rhythms in "Cindy," and the sharp corners in "Chicken Reel"-well, wow. I love his version of "Shady Grove"-it's the two-part one where each part ends on the 5-chord. Stecher points out that "His version turns out to be the same pentatonic "Shady Grove" known all over Appalachia and beyond-with the tonic note taken to be one step low. The shift of the tonic anchor transforms the song without actually changing the tune."

This tune seems to me an example of one of the possible themes of this video, if it has a theme: each of these performers is a model of how an individual musician can speak creatively and personally through older musical forms. Stecher's notes emphasize this issue, saying that "Old time music becomes authentic not in the mimicry of a static received tradition," but in a process of absorbing and then putting forth "in personal terms" and "within certain parameters," the music that has been "received" and "assimilated." It's pretty tricky to think about: How do we possess for our own the music we assimilate? What are the parameters we should stay within? Why should we stay within them? How do we know if we're inside them or out? This video offers non-verbal answers. Just listen to Roscoe Holcomb. It's obvious that he's completely in a tradition, and completely original.

Nevertheless, the Holcomb experience is hard to get here. Of the performers on the video, as Stecher puts it, "he makes the least apparent concession to the listener, but by all accounts he was a spellbinding performer." In this footage he seems rather small, and the music doesn't sound as big as I suspect it really was. Nevertheless, this is superb banjo playing on "Black Eyed Susie." And we see up close that Holcomb's guitar style on "Pretty Polly," with the thumb and the first finger, is just about the same as his banjo style on "Old Smokey." His singing here doesn't nail you to the wall like the singing on some of his other recordings, but that isn't the fault of his singing. Something about the film simply makes him seem very distant. Perhaps the camera is too far back. Or perhaps there's not enough sense of the audience here. Holcomb plays on a stage, but there is no evidence of an audience. Anyway, dapper, thin, playing a banjo tune at breakneck speed while barely moving his fingers or his face-it's good to see film of him even if it doesn't capture his whole sound.

The footage of Tommy Jarrell is more irritating than anything else Whoever held the camera was having too much fun dissolving from one shot to another to pay very much attention to whether the viewer is getting a good look at Jarrell's bow. For a lot of the time we see his face and about two inches from the middle of the bow. Or we get his torso, plus fiddle, plus bow-tip-minus right hand. However, the music is good: Blanton Owen accompanies on banjo, and Mike Seeger on guitar (thumb on the bass strings, fingers on the treble, no picks), and the band sound is truly hot. After "Breaking Up Christmas," Tommy smiles in pleasure and satisfaction. Also in this part of the video, the performers do seem to be playing to an audience-we see a few shadows of people sitting in chairs, and get the impression that there are more people out there. The audience presence gives the music warmth and friendliness that is not present in the Snow or Holcomb segments. (Oddly enough, this warmth is present in the Boggs segment, though there's no sign of an audience. I get the feeling here that Boggs and whoever was filming were friends.) There is one cut of Jarrell playing the banjo-"Cripple Creek"-sweet and rolling, delicate and deliberate, smooth and forceful all at once. But surely there must be better film of Tommy somewhere. The music is good, but the picture just makes you want to tear out your hair.

Completely missing from the booklet and the video are details about how, why, and where these films were made. We are told that Kilby Snow was filmed in Seattle in 1970, Boggs in Newport, Rhode Island in 1966, Jarrell at Black Hawk College in Moline, Illinois in 1976, and Holcomb in Seattle in 1972. The titles at the end thank Alan Lomax, Mike Seeger, Black Hawk College, and the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives for the footage, but, except for the Tommy Jarrell/Black Hawk College part, it is not clear what source is responsible for what film, though we might guess from the location of the Boggs footage that it was taken during a Newport Folk Festival. I would like to know much more about these performances. Were these concerts? Workshops? Folk Festivals? I'd like to have more of a sense of what brought each of these talents to the place and time these films were made.

Molly Tenenbaum

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Various Artists - A Treasury Of Library Of Congress Field Recordings
Rounder CD 1500
Collected And Annotated By Stephen Wade
W. H. Stepp: Bonaparte's Retreat
Kelly Pace: Rock Island Line
E. C. Ball: Pretty Polly
Ora Dell Graham: Pullin' the Skiff, Shortenin' Bread
Christine & Katherine Shipp: Sea Lion Woman
Nashville Washboard Band: Soldier's Joy
Vera Hall: Another Man Done Gone
Paine Denson: Northfield
Turner Junior Johnson: When I Lay My Burden Down
W. E. Claunch: Grub Springs
Bozie Sturdivant: Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down
Learned Hand: Iron Merrimac
Margaret Creek: Lullaby
Pete Steele: Coal Creek March
David "Honeyboy" Edwards: Worried Life Blues
Texas Gladden: One Morning in May
Jimmie Strothers: Blood-Strained Banders
Jess Morris: Goodbye, Old Paint
Wash Dennis & Charlie Sims: Lead Me to the Rock
Luther Strong: Glory in the Meetinghouse
John J. Quinn: The Avondale Mine Disaster
Thaddeus C. Willingham: Roll on the Ground
Charlie Butler: Diamond Joe
Sonny Terry: Lost John
Elita, Mary & Ella Hoffpauir: Sept Ans sur Mer
Smith Casey: East Texas Rag
Wade Ward: Old Joe Clark
Woody Guthrie: The Gypsy Davy
Bela Cozad: Kiowa Story of the Flute.

I've spent my adult life listening to, and sometimes being obsessed by, traditional American music. My relatives, of Scandinavian descent, played fiddle, guitar, piano, and sang-all for their own entertainment. I thought I had outgrown home-made music when I went to college and started listening to symphonies. I was surprised to be re-seduced by the genre in the late 1950s at the Minneapolis Public Library, where an enlightened music librarian had bought the 78 RPM record albums Folk Music of the United States, published by the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song. They were reference items, so you had to listen to them on-site through headphones. I clearly remember our excitement when a friend and I, sharing headphone halves, first heard Pete Steele's "Coal Creek March," Thaddeus Willingham's "Roll on the Ground," and Woody Guthrie's "The Gypsy Davy." The only competition we ever encountered for possession of the record player came from some urban American Indians, who had somehow discovered that the Library of Congress was the only published source, at the time, of their traditional music. Later, the LP Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music (recently republished in CD format) introduced me to commercial recordings of the music, but I often return to the Library of Congress recordings for the feel of the home music that I remember from my childhood, which, as Wade points out, also includes clocks, roosters, dogs, children, relatives and cars making their ordinary sounds.

Later, the Library of Congress reissued the old albums, plus new ones, as LPs, totaling 83 altogether. Stephen Wade has done an admirable job of selecting 30 stellar items from this collection, including the three I mentioned above. I don't know how he made the choices, since the original albums were already a strong distillation of the Library of Congress collection, but every one sounds just right to me. In addition, the booklet contains all kinds of specific information about the performances-birth and death dates, origins, short biographies, relationships. I can't imagine how Wade found the time to gather and organize all this data while filling the exhausting role of traveling performer and preparing an excellent series on these same songs for NPR's All Things Considered.

As you can tell, I highly recommend this CD, because it is an excellent short anthology of the essence of much of our recent American musical heritage. Although it is, of necessity, far from complete (no Cajun, Mexican-American, immigrant, urban, or sailor music, for example), it is more representative than the Folkways Anthology. It includes samples of northeastern, cowboy and Indian music, as well as some rural childrens' rope-skipping songs.

The CD also illustrates some interesting points about tradition vs. individual creativity. Stephen Wade explains in his notes that Aaron Copeland stole Stepp's "Bonaparte's Retreat" tune, without credit, for the hoedown in his ballet Rodeo. This is indeed more aggressive than Bela Bartok, who composed original tunes using scales inspired by Hungarian folk tunes. But Leadbelly took his "Rock Island Line" from Kelly Pace's earlier recording reissued on this CD. The Britisher Lonnie Donagan, in turn, had a hit with his cover of the Leadbelly recording, and subsequently interested a lot of people in traditional music. E.C. Ball's "Pretty Polly" on this CD is identical with the old commercial recording by B. F. Shelton, except that the banjo melodic line is played on a guitar. None of the people recorded by the Library of Congress collectors seem to have been concerned about ownership. The music is in the tradition, received from an unknown number of generations, and generously passed on to the next ones. We may temporarily profit from them, but we don't own them. Copyright law is intended to protect individual artistic creation, but it makes no more sense for "The Blood Strained Banders" or "Goodbye Old Paint," than Homer's copyrights to The Odyssey.

Lyle Lofgren

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The Old Time Herald PO Box 61679• Durham, NC • 27715-1679
Phone (919) 286-2041
info@oldtimeherald.org webmaster@oldtimeherald.org
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