This is music as would make Robert Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders jump for joy. The entire hour is filled with nothing but traditional songs from the late 1800s to the early 1900s performed on banjos, fiddle, and bowed bass by Clarke Buehling, Curly Miller, and Carole Ann Rose: The Old 78s…and clearly a violation of truth-in-advertising 'cause they ain't all that aged, Jeeter. The recording throughout only adds to a classic atmosphere miked from stands, not internally from the instruments.
Don't expect non-stop wild Flatt & Scruggs interchanges, as the band favors all stripes of rendition, often sounding as if pulled from ancient movies, 78 platters, or dictaphone cylinders steeped in no end of descriptive tempos. You'll get rags, rondos, carefully walked slowtimers, square dances, minstrel showpieces, and just about everything one would expect from the heyday of these compositions. Equally, don't be surprised when some of the cuts carry extremely modern ideas. Indian War Whoop, for instance, contains some very intriguing suspensions and variations, yet the band's quite faithful to the old transcriptions…with a bit of fine tuning here and there. Perhaps most surprising among the hardware armada is a cello banjo, the equivalent of a contrabass, tuba, or bassoon.
Visions of Spanky & Our Gang, the Keystone Kops, and Ma & Pa Kettle come floating back from yesteryear, as do refrains of ploughboys, newly freed slaves, intinerant players, and Woody Guthrie types, but I couldn't help but feel Old Time Fiddle Rags was like a corollary to those rare organ and piano players found occasionally in silent-movie revival houses around the country. The erudite listener will readily begin to understand where Ferde Grofé and George & Ira Gershwin picked up an influence or two in such fare.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Website design by David N. Pyles