Monday, November 21, 2016

CD Review: TRADITIONAL FIDDLE MUSIC OF THE OZARKS - Along The Eastern Crescent

TRADITIONAL FIDDLE MUSIC OF THE OZARKS
Along The Eastern Crescent
Big Taters In The Sandy Land - Darkies' Dream - Boatin' Down The River - Uncle Henry - Rose Nell - Wabash Foxtrot - White River - Plantation Medley - Sourwood Mountain - On The Rock - Old Leather Bonnet With A Hole In The Crown - Jawbone - New Five Cents - Oklahoma Run - Bear Creek Sally Goodin - Mason's March - Nine Mile - Nine Mile - Ragged Bill - Sam Taylor's Tune - Newhouse - Drowning Creek Blues - Old Joe Redbird -  Nubbin - Sam Moore Waltz - Wang Wang Blues - Jenny Nettles - Hamilton Ironworks - Everything - Cluckin' Hen - Blue Mule - Wolves A-Howlin' - Bay Rooster - Arkansas Hop - Mate To The Hog Waltz - Jericho - Saddle Old Spike - Rocky Road To Denver - Pretty Little Girl With A Blue Dress On - Sourdough Mountain
 
As we approach the Thanksgiving season in America, and as I get ready to head on south for the winter, I thought I'd put on one of the great Ozark Mountain old-time fiddler's CD to listen to. I'm glad I did for it brought back mountains of memories working with old-time fiddlers and their co-horts. On my PBS television show "Old Time Country Music" (it ran for seven years), one of America's finest fiddlers, Kenny Baker (fiddler for Bill Monroe) backed me on one of the songs I sang on the show, "Down In The Valley."  It was quite an experience for me, especially since I've been entranced with old time fiddlers all my life.  One of the first thing a novice notices about these old songs are their titles.  Where in the world did they come from and what do they mean since all the music is instrumental in style.  This particular "Ozark" style of fiddling represented on this CD is especially good since it also contains several songs by a very close and dear friend I have worked with for years at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.  Violet Hensley, who is celebrating her 100th birthday this year contributes six great old-time fiddle songs to this project.  Violet has a vice-grip mind when it comes to old melody lines and she remembers them well.  We have to remember that old-time fiddlers learn songs by ear.  Very few actually 'read' music, therefore it is an oral tradition of the first order, and some of these great old melody lines would certainly be lost if it were not for great memory minds like Violet's that keeps them alive.  Of course the melody lines can change with each passage to another fiddler.  In the song "Wang Wang Blues" which Violet plays an interesting version of, according to other fiddlers the melody line has changed somewhat in her learning process.  Be that as it may, old-time fiddle tunes are hard to come by in this day of internet robot music.  Rural America however has put a change in political office, namely the president, so it's rural America these old-time fiddlers represent.  There's a ton of great fiddlers on this particular CD, all of it related to what they call the Eastern Crescent in Missouri.  Much of America's early rural traditions and musical likes were heavily discriminated against in the early days of recording music.  ASCAP the only licensing agency for original music at that time complained that this kind of music was unfit for human beings to listen to and therefore would not license it for radio airplay.  That very disturbing discrimination set the stage for a huge amount of unequal and unfair treatment to incredibly gifted artists at their hands.  So it goes, however this particular CD is determined to keep the old melodies alive.  Some of the fiddlers are handsome players, some are hard old-time.  Whatever the case, there are melody lines kept alive simply the playing of them, and this recording keeps those efforts alive and well.  The rural communities of the United States posses a rich a varied heritage of spirited forms of social music including square dance fiddling, old songs and banjo tunes.  All of that is well preserved in this wonderful effort produced by Gordon McCaan and Mark Wilson for their North Ameridan Tradition Series.  It's a wonderful thing to listen to, especially if you appreciate the music of our rural past.  The surprise was the wonderful opportuinity to hear old friend Violet Hensley playing so well, and still at it even though she's 100 years old.
RECORD REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART, President National Traditional Country Music Assn. for Country Music News International
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