Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Not Fade Away - Reissue Review from Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Various Artists

Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow: Vintage Fiddle Music 1927-1935 (Old Hat)

Although you’d be hard-pressed to find much evidence of it these days, there was a time when the fiddle reigned supreme in all kinds of American vernacular music, among black as well as white musicians. Until the turn of the last century, the repertoires and playing styles of black and white country entertainers overlapped a great deal and shared what ethnomusicologist Kip Lornell has identified as a common stock of tunes and songs.

This situation changed somewhat with the advent of the blues, although many early blues performers continued to play in a variety of styles, thus maintaining an appeal broad enough to extend to both black and white audiences. But by the mid-1920s, the major record companies — Victor, Columbia, Okeh, and Brunswick-Vocalion — developed a system of marketing their products that, in essence, was the cultural equivalent of the Jim Crow laws. These companies aimed hillbilly records at a rural white market and marketed “race” records (blues, hot jazz bands, and black sacred music) toward blacks.

Although in reality there were a lot of crossover sales, one sad consequence of this practice was that the majority of black string bands (and evidence suggests there were plenty of them) were turned away by the record companies. The majority, but not all. A small amount of this music survived long enough to be committed to wax in the era of 78s, though little of it has been reissued on LP or CD. That, then, is the raison d’être for this CD, a powerful collection of blues, hokum, jug-band, jazz, and black hillbilly music.

The violin is unique among musical instruments in its ability to mimic human vocal expression. For that reason, it is especially effective as the lead voice in the various ensembles heard here. Hot dance music was the order of the day, and appropriately the collection roars into gear with “Rukus Juice And Chittlin”, a rollicking number by the Memphis Jug Band with Charlie Pierce on the fiddle. It glides to a halt 75 minutes later with the Mississippie Sheiks’ very pop-oriented “Lazy Lazy River”, sung by Walter Vinson and fiddled by Lonnie Chatman.

In between are lowdown blues by Mississippi guitarist/singer Joe Williams, accompanied by “Dad” Tracy on fiddle; Georgian Henry Williams with Eddie Anthony, who was best known for his fiddle playing with Peg Leg Howell; and Frank Stokes, a well-known fixture of the Beale Street blues scene in Memphis. Clifford Hayes and his Louisville Stompers and the Dixieland Jug Blowers, two fine bands from Louisville, play in a style that might best be described as the string-band equivalent of the hot jazz then popular in Chicago and New York.

Those familiar with the great blues guitarists Lonnie Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy may be surprised to learn that their first instrument was the fiddle. Each is heard here demonstrating their prowess on that instrument, Broonzy in blues and jazz ensembles, Johnson in a trio with a more countrified sound. Bo Chatman, best-known as a guitarist and singer of double-entendre blues under the name of Bo Carter, is heard here as a fiddler on several cuts. One of the more unusual pieces included in this compilation is the charming (and very European-sounding) “Cabo Verdranos Peca Nove” played by Augusto Abrew, a fiddler who migrated to New York from the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa.

Three selections are straight-ahead country breakdowns that were originally issued as part of the record companies’ hillbilly series. Howard Armstrong of LaFollette, Tennessee, who played in a group called the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, knocks one out called “Knoxville Stomp”. Armstrong, incidentally, is still living and playing his fiddle and mandolin around Boston. James Cole’s String Band offers up “I Got A Gal”, a lively tune with comic verses typical of the day.

Finally, in what was certainly one of the earliest integrated recording sessions, Andrew Baxter, a black fiddler from north Georgia, leads the well-known hillbilly band the Georgia Yellowhammers on an energetic romp simply called “G Rag”. Wonderful stuff indeed. The collection also comes with 32 pages of meticulously researched notes, interspersed throughout with vintage photographs.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108

Discuss

Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »


From the Blogs

  • Ray LaMontagne at the Woods at Fontanel (Nashville, Tenn. – July 25, 2014)
    Ray LaMontagne writes great songs and makes great records. And that's certainly no small feat. His live shows, though, while being technically and musically superlative, really don't leave the audience with a whole lot to hang on to other than the technique and the music. There's no personal engagement on LaMontagne's part. It's as i […]
  • Freight Train Boogie Show #264 features new music from Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes
    FTB Show #264 features the new album by Old Crow Medicine Show called Remedy.  Also new music from Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes. Here's the iTunes link to subscribe to the FTB podcasts.  Here's the direct link to … […]
  • Vancouver International Folk Festival Day Two (Jericho Beach, Vancouver, BC - July 19th, 2014)
    While Friday night at the Vancouver Folk Festival focuses on main stage performances, the rest of the weekend on the sprawling festival grounds of Jericho Beach is as notable for its smaller workshop performances. This was especially true this year. This particular Saturday started with the official public announcement of Joan Baez's cancellation. Perha […]
  • Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery - Man Is Born for Trouble (Album Review)
    The origin story of Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery is pivotal for an appreciation of Powell’s music. The name, inspired by the 1903 film The Great Train Robbery, the first silent western committed to celluloid, evokes Powell’s affinity for history, American aestheticism, and art that has passed through generations and endured technological revol […]
  • By the Time You Read This, It'll Be Over: A Pre-Newport Ramble
    Missing the first night -- likely the best of the three, given my taste and interest -- is sort of a bummer. But, on the other hand there's still two more days and nights to wander around the festival site, to hopefully discover a new act or the reinvention of something old. And, to be completely honest, the music and performances will run second to jus […]
  • Well Crafted, The “Not To Be Missed” Music Festival of 2014
    Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill located in pristine Harrodsburg, Kentucky plays host to what is shaping up to be the best Americana music festival of 2014.  Well Crafted, August 8-9 2014, couples some of the best musical talent in our beloved scene with the fine frothy libations of Kentucky’s local Craft Beer creators.  Shaker Steps Productions’ Derek Feldma […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!


Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter