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American Fiddle Tunes
Various Artists
American Fiddle Tunes
Genres: Country, Folk, Special Interest, Pop
  •  Track Listings (28) - Disc #1

For most people, this 28-track anthology will be more edifying than entertaining... and that's not a criticism. First released in 1971, the collection was assembled by Alan Jabbour under the auspices of the American Folkli...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Various Artists
Title: American Fiddle Tunes
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: Rounder Select
Original Release Date: 1/1/1971
Re-Release Date: 6/20/2000
Genres: Country, Folk, Special Interest, Pop
Styles: Bluegrass, Classic Country, Traditional Folk
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 018964151829

For most people, this 28-track anthology will be more edifying than entertaining... and that's not a criticism. First released in 1971, the collection was assembled by Alan Jabbour under the auspices of the American Folklife Center and the Library of Congress. Spanning the 1930s and '40s, the handsomely illustrated and thoroughly documented collection captures fiddlers from New England to California sawing their way through their favorite showcase tunes, in the process illustrating the rich variety of roughhewn sounds that salt-of-the-earth Americans produced with the violin. --Steven Stolder

CD Reviews

Shlomo Pestcoe | 02/21/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If you love traditional fiddle music, this album belongs in your music library. This is a remastered reissue of the 1971 LP of 28 field recordings of fiddlers found in the Library of Congress' Archive of Folk Culture. It was compiled, edited and annotated by Alan Jabbour, a pioneering scholar and researcher in the study of the various fiddle traditions of North America. A master fiddler in his own right, Jabbour's selections are well chosen to give us a nice overview of the range and diversity of American regional fiddle styles, while his comprehensive liner notes-- presented here in a whopping 72 page (!) booklet, complete with great photos of many of the fiddlers -- reflect his estimable scholarship and passion for the music.The field recordings were made in the 1930s and '40s and document older tradition bearers from all across continental United States-- from Mrs. Ben Scott of Turlock, California (the only female fiddler on the album) to Elmer Barton of Quechee, Vermont. Reflecting their roots in the British Isles, the various divergent regional styles of North American fiddle music originally shared the marked tendency towards solo performance. Accordingly, the majority of the album's fiddlers play without any accompaniment... save their tapping feet. The first 13 cuts offer us a nice sampling of what we nowadays refer to as "Northern" style: clean precise melody lines, with very little of the ornamentation, "double stopping" or droning--let alone the syncopated "back-beat" derived from African influences -- found in the Southern and South Western styles. This harkens back to English country dance music, the pop dance music of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The rest of the album is devoted to representatives of various Southern traditions. Here we find 80 year old Stephen B. Tucker of Meridian, Mississippi doing a beautiful rendention of the double jig, HASTE TO THE WEDDING, that could easily be mistaken for an example of the aforementioned Northern style. It reminds us that in the 19th century, when Mr. Tucker was born, North American fiddlers did share a common repertoire of dance tunes that transcended stylistic differences, even while distinctive regional "dialects" were evolving into the many different forms of old-time fiddle music we know today. More typical of the Southern approach is Kentuckian W.H. Stepp's classic WAYS OF THE WORLD, for which Bill Stepp retunes his fiddle into "A" cross-tuning (AEAE, one of the several "standard" tunings common in Southern and South Western fiddling) for a full open sound facilitated by the use of bass drones as rhythmic accents. While this album does offers a good cross section of the diversity to be found in America's fiddle heritage, there are some significant omissions. There are no representatives of the African-American fiddle tradition, which stretches back to the 17th century, despite the fact that there are also field recordings of black fiddlers in the Archive. Likewise, we find no examples of Native American fiddle music, such as that of the Tohono O'odham people of Southern Arizona (formerly known as the Papago Indians), the Hispanic traditions of New Mexico and Texas, nor the Cajun and Black Creole traditions of Louisiana (Wayne Perry, the only Cajun fiddler represented here plays a version of the typical Anglo breakdown, OLD JOE CLARK). And what about the French and Anglo-Celtic Canadian, Norwegian-American and other immigrant traditions, all of which have contributed greatly to the evolution of American fiddle music? Rounder and the Library of Congress should really consider putting out at least another volume or two to address these glaring oversights. All things considered, I highly recommend this album to anyone interested in fiddle music, regardless of style preference. Fiddlers of every skill and persuasion will find this to be an invaluable reference, while violinists can learn a thing or two from these masters about traditional folk style and dance rhythms. A note to the classical music aficionados: here you'll find the original recording of W.H. Stepp's version of BONAPARTE'S RETREAT, which Aaron Copeland used, note for note, as the main musical theme for the "hoedown" in his ballet RODEO (my fellow "couch potatoes" will recognize it as the background music for the Beef commercials)."
Indispensable for American musical history...
ewomack | MN USA | 02/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"People used to dance to these tunes; people used to congregate, socialize and be a community with the help of these tunes. It's not hard to imagine why - just try to control the spontaneous and inevitable foot tapping while listening to this disc - the rhythms are too seductive and inviting. The songs are reminiscent of a hoe-down or what today most of us would recognize as Irish music (this style of fiddling sometimes accompanies modern Irish Folk/Rock bands such as Boiled in Lead). But this is pure American music brought over from Britain generations ago. It would later be incorporated in western swing, country, and folk music and become a more or less permanent cultural archetype for this country's music. This disc includes samples of the source of that tradition, and the songs hold up very very well on their own some sixty or seventy years later. Some of them will sound wildly familiar.Given that these recordings were made in the 1930s and 1940s, the sound quality is only really noticeable on a few tracks. The fiddles shine out in the mix, and are next to never obscured by tape hiss or noise, in spite of the fact that all of these are field recordings.Some of the songs have serious undertones, some are humorous ("The Drunken Hiccups" which is obviously about inebriation). At least one, track sixteen, has a sinister history that the CD booklet only hints at. Some of them have a very long lineage: track one "Soldier's Joy" is said to be traceable back to 1779. With the change in undertone comes a change of mood, and the great variety on this disc reflects this. Some of the musical forms will be instantly recognizable; there are a few "horpipes" (a popular dance/rhythm) on this disc. The most well-known hornpipe is "The Sailor's Hornpipe" which was later used as the theme for Popeye the Sailor cartoons (there is not a version of this song on this disc, but it contains some close cousins).The CD booklet is actually a standalone booklet over 70 pages long. It includes histories of all of the songs, general information about fiddling, and amazing historical photographs. This is almost worth the price alone.Now and then on the disc the fiddlers speak. One spoken highlight follows "Fisher's Hornpipe" where the fiddler tells the interviewer about the Stradivarius violin he obtained at a lumber camp. Another highlight is the spoken introduction to "Natchez under the Hill".For anyone with any interest whatsoever in the historical evolution of music in America, this disc is a great source of information and melodies. It contains some incredible musicianship and loads of historical significance. Plus, and this is the best part, it's fun to listen to."
I have found my Grandfather!
R. Elkinton | Kansas City Metro Area | 08/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Elmer Barton from Quechee VT is my grandfather. He was my mother's father. I never had the opportunity to meet him. I now have an excellent example of what a talented man he was. I can pass this on to my children."