MULTIPLE CHOICE TEST
This CD/DVD set by Scott Prouty is:
(a) An eclectic survey of fiddle music learned from people Prouty knew personally, or from recordings
(b) An instructional DVD demonstrating bowing and fingering techniques with liner notes discussing tunings
(c) A collection of jambuster tunes that sound best on solo fiddle (or banjo), often modified from the source recording, discussed fully in the liner notes
(d) All of the above.
Let’s take these sequentially. Scott Prouty has been playing fiddle and banjo for a long time, introduced to music by his parents, Clarke and Sheila Prouty, and nurtured by summers spent at the Augusta Heritage Center in the heart of West Virginia. There he got to meet and learn from such traditional fiddlers as Melvin Wine (whose portrait is hanging on the wall of his dwelling and visible in the DVD), Leland Hall, and members of the Hammons family. He has also listened carefully to old field recordings.
This CD/DVD set is not only very enjoyable listening, but also a wonderful teaching tool, especially if you are a fiddler. It is one thing to play the notes, but the secret of sounding good lies in the bowing. By watching this DVD, one can see in which direction the bow is moving to sound any given note. Prouty first learned these bowing methods (which are not intuitive) from watching the older fiddlers, and then was able to generalize those methods to make a tune learned from a recording sound like something learned directly from the fiddler. Yes, you can saw your way through almost any tune, but, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. There’s a reason the fiddle is called “the devil’s box.”
Why did I call these “jambuster tunes?” Prouty’s own words: “These are not tunes I usually play in jams.” Instead, these are tunes reserved, he says, for solo playing. Often, the source was also a solo fiddle recording, such as the opening track, Blind Bill Day’s “Little Boy Working on the Road.” As is often the case, the tune is pretty crooked. That alone does not make the tune best for solo fiddle; most of us can play “Newcastle” (the tune that Henry Reed called “Texas”) in a jam without any sense of its weirdness. What Prouty has done, however, is often to alter the tune and make it uniquely his, carefully documenting the original source, who he learned it from, and how he and others have changed it, even sometimes tuning a half-step low.
About half these tunes are from West Virginia. Of the rest, many are from elsewhere in Appalachia, such as the Kimble Family’s “Don’t Drink Nothing but Corn.” He also included tunes from the Midwest, “Oyster Girl” from Bob Walters via Dwight Lamb, and even one from the Gaspé region of Quebec. One warning: the names of tunes are not often what you expect. “Fishers Hornpipe” from Harvey Sampson is not the tune in Cole’s, and “Icy Mountain” is not the one played by Ward Jarvis. However, “Three Forks of Reedy” is pretty much the Jarvis version (compare FRC 402) and “Wild Horse” is pretty recognizable, but a lot more crooked than the one usually played in jams. For all the reasons mentioned above, this is another enjoyable contribution from the Tiki Parlour. Thanks, Scott!