The music for this CD began under a tarp, pickled eggs in a jar nearby and ice-cold Schlitz in a cooler, during what fiddler Joseph Decosimo recalls as “a sweaty nine-hour fit of music making.” It was a June weekend at Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention in North Carolina, and the players realized something special was happening, something worth recording. The group was playing, as Decosimo put it, “music that sounded like it was from somewhere, and it made people dance.”
That “somewhere” referred not so much to the convention park’s nearby Rocky Creek (which the Ramblers took for their name) but had to do more with a strain of old-time music once heard at fiddlers’ conventions around the Southeast United States. The band felt like they were recovering something—playing a kind of old-time music that some call “transitional” due to its incorporating (and anticipating) elements of bluegrass, but that also has a great old-time pedigree.
There’s nothing accidental about the tone and flavor of the music here. Decosimo and his bandmates have imbibed deeply and studied intently lots of older sources, names mentioned in CD cover notes like Red Wilson, Bob Douglas, Tommy Magness, Manco Sneed, Otis Burris, or Tommy Magness (and others). Some of the track titles even incorporate the source players’ names, like “Blaine Smith’s Piece” and “R. Wooliver’s Money Musk.”
And the ingredients of this “hearty old-time music” (another quote from the cover notes) include Decosimo’s driving fiddle; Ken Landreth’s energetic, sometimes contrapuntal three-finger banjo; Jim Collier’s accomplished mandolin and vocals; and Joseph Dejarnette’s solid bass. The first track, “Sally Ann,” begins with a simple (if driving) and highly traditional fiddle and banjo duet. The bulk of the rest exhibits the band at full bore, save for another fiddle-banjo duet and a couple of songs to further vary the pacing.
Studio recording sessions for the CD brought the musicians together again in 2016 and 2019, and they recorded almost two dozen tracks. Listening through all 22, it’s not hard to understand why folks wanted to dance when they happened by the tarp at Mount Airy. And why they would want a recording for times they couldn’t gather under a summer tent.