Friday, December 04, 2009

Old Time Music, Indeed!

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Dock Boggs Performing "Sugar Baby".

CD Review

Friends Of Old Time Music, various artists, 3CD set, Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings, 2006


Okay, maybe the now somewhat eclipsed mountain music and country blues revival of the early 2000s driven by George Clooney’s “Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Songcatcher” revived some names from those traditions like The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys and Maybelle Carter (although her connection with the Carter Family and Johnny Cash probably would have made her well-known in any case). But how about Kentucky banjo/fiddler (and much else) Roscoe Holcomb? Or Hobart Smith? Or Dock Boggs? Or…. I could go on but, hopefully, you get my drift.

What I am talking about is the lesser lights of these genres and the acknowledgement of their proper place in the American Songbook. That, my friends, comes from the “rediscovery” of these last-mentioned performers as part of the general trend back to roots music that drove the overall folk revival of the early 1960’s. The producers of this outstanding three-disc compilation are at pains to separate these genres out from the other doings of that time such as the search for the roots of the blues and the creation of a new up-to-date folk idiom by a wave of singer/songwriters who were thick as fleas in those days crowding New York City for recognition. One name, Bob Dylan, can, arbitrarily, serve as the symbol for that trend.

For lack of a better term, Friend of Old Time Music (FOTM), served as a transmission belt to bring this particular form of music to the roots hungry, urban young longing for a different musical sound. From personal knowledge this reviewer, and many from his generation, were desperately seeking music not provided in the precincts of Tin Pan Alley and other safe havens that had emasculated the rockabilly and rock and roll that drove our teen years. We may not have been able to articulate it exactly that way but we knew we did not want a continual diet of Sandra Dee and Bobby Vee.

This three disc compilation (including an incredibly informative booklet giving a mother lode of material, including photographs, about the how, when and why of bringing the mainly Southern, mainly rural talents to New York City in the early 1960s) will give the new generation and many older aficionados, in one place, a primer of great value. If you want to know the details of this part of the folk revival puzzle you certainly have to start here. For the beginner or the aficionado this is a worthwhile addition to the store of our common musical heritage.

Rather than repeat information that is readily available in the booklet and on the discs I’ll finish up here with some recommendations of songs that I believe you should be sure to listen to:

Disc One: Dock Boggs on “The Country Blues," Mississippi Fred McDowell on “Going Down The River,” Roscoe Holcomb on “East Virginia Blues,” Hobart Smith on “Soldier’s Joy,” Mississippi John Hurt on “Coffee Blues,” Maybelle Carter on “The Storms Are On The Ocean,” and Jesse Fuller on “Buck And Wing”

Disc Two: Maybelle Carter on "Foggy Mountain Top” and “Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow,” Jesse Fuller on “San Francisco Bay Blues,” Roscoe Holcomb on “John Henry,” and Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers on “Before This Time Another Year”

Disc Three: Jesse Fuller on “Guitar Lesson” and “Cincinnati Blues,” Maybelle Carter on “He’s Solid Gone" and “Sugar Hill," Roscoe Holcomb on “Rising Sun Blues,” Mississippi John Hurt on “Frankie And Albert,”
and The Clarence Ashley Group on “Amazing Grace”.

Note: I should mention that all five of Maybelle Carter’s tracks on this compilation have made my recommendations list. I might add that her performances here (in 1965, and accompanied by members of The New Lost City Ramblers) make me wonder out loud, very out loud, what the heck she was doing all those years as merely one member of the Carter Family trio. Off these performances I now know who held that operation together musically. Not just her well-regarded and influential country guitar work and her use of the auto harp but her finely-etched voice that comes out very nicely on something like “Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow”.


"The Storms Are On The Ocean"

I'm going away to leave you love
I'm going away for a while
But I'll return to see you sometime
If I go ten thousand miles

The storms are on the ocean
The heavens may cease to be
This world may lose it's motion love
If I prove false to thee

Oh who will dress your pretty little feet
And who will glove your hand
Oh who will kiss your rosy red cheeks
When I'm in a foreign land

Papa will dress my pretty little feet
And Mama will glove my hand
You may kiss my rosy red cheeks
When you return again

Have you seen those mournful doves
Flying from pine to pine
A-mournin' for their own true love
Just like I mourn for mine

I'll never go back on the ocean love
I'll never go back on the sea
I'll never go back on my blue-eyed girl
'Til she goes back on me

"Hello Central, Give Me Heaven"

Hello central give me heaven
For I know my mother's there
And you'll find her with the angels
Over on the golden stair

She'll be glad it's me a speaking
Wont you call her for me please
For I surely want to tell her
That we're sad without her here

Hello central give me heaven
For I know my mother's there
You will find her with the angels
Over on the golden stair

Poppa dear is said and lonely
Sobbed the tearful little child
Since momma's gone to heaven
Poppa dear you do not smile

I will speak to her and tell her
That we want her to come home
You just listen while I call her
Call her through the telephone

I will answer just to please her
Yes dear heart I'll soon come home
Kiss me momma it's your darling
Kiss me through the telephone

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