Black Stringband Music (Rounder CD 0238)
Way, way back - well before blues & jazz...and all
of those other newfangled musics - there was what one
Tony Russell termed a common-stock southern
form, played by whites & blacks (and amerindians,
to boot), mainly on fiddle and banjo. We can hear echoes
of it all over, albeit by the 1920s, most blacks had abandoned
it for newer styles, as the whites were largely to do
during the subsequent Depression. Recordings of whites
making such music are commonplace (albeit not that well-known)...but,
blacks, now - that is another thing entirely...
Because, aside from a scant handful of 78s from the twenties
- and another handful of field recordings by aged masters
from the 70s and 80s, only the sessions represented herein
survive to tell the tale at any length... And, without
a doubt, the meanest/rawest & most powerful outfit
on record is Frazier & Patterson - first unleashed
upon the wider world on this particular Rounder release.
And, whilst the other band here is fine, Id have
to say that Frazier & Patterson brook no comparison.
My only complaint is that this disc lacks their complete
recordings - something that was only corrected decades
later, by the complementary Black Fiddlers
(Document DOCD - 5631). But, this is (definitely) the
place to start...
The sound of the black sub-strand of this common-stock
could be very different from their white counterparts,
albeit the ingredients were similar. Because, when the
heat turned up, white bands tended to flow...in a development
that eventually turned into bluegrass. In contrast, people
like Frazier & Pattern got down & stomped...the
drones turned feral, and the banjo hammered harder than
any acoustic delta blues on record. No question.
Old Cow Died, and the solo banjo Corrinne
particularly epitomize this...the former twisting into
a nigh-on dervish strain - harking back to North-African
savannah roots - whilst the manically-savage beatings
which occur during the latter makes clear exactly what
punk rock owes to this, one of the foundational meetings
of black & white musics in the Americas...
When younger players today, some deeply versed in their
history, offer us updated versions of same, sadly, far
too many self-appointed folk music purists
are all-too quick to condemn them as heretics - apparently
infected w/the hard drive of rocknroll &
such - forgetting (if those ignorant bastards ever knew)...that
genuine folk musics of earlier times were wondrously diverse...and
most of them were dance musics, by definition.
So, this is one of those very, very rare albums that
almost anyone reading this NEEDS to hear. Forget the strictures
of the folkniks...and, in fact, anything you think you
know about old-time music. Because, if you wanna hear
something of the black roots of rocknroll,
white stringband musics, bluegrass, or the
aforementioned punk rock - and, I kid you not - this one
truly OUGHT to be right there, front & centre - in
the very midst of your collection. And...played loud,
just like it was way back when. Forget the scratchy sound
- just fiddle w/the EQ & turn the damn thing up...
Cause this one is - still - a revelation...
John Henry Calvinist