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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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