As the most influential fiddle-playing Texan, Benny Thomasson is basically also the father of modern contest fiddling, and a powerful influence on contemporary players such as Mark O’Connor. Drawing on both the western swing of his young-adult years and the hard-and-fast rules of traditional fiddling, he created a clean, intricate style that turned fare such as “Jack Of Diamonds” and “Billy In The Lowground” into a whole ‘nother thing (he also contributed at least one modern standard, the lush waltz “Midnight On The Water”). Thomasson’s celebrated long-bow technique yielded a sweeping, smoother sound that rendered obsolete the slurs of Appalachian fiddling. He varied the traditional warhorses — but not too much — by playing slight variations on the melody, and by turning conventional two-part fiddle tunes into multi-part extravaganzas. And he tailored his music to the contest format, developing a distinct repertoire that was unlike what he might play at social gatherings (where the audience would be less concerned with judge-pleasing technique and more attuned to something that got them dancing). Because Thomasson was never a commercial performer, these twenty tracks (including two live) from 1966 to 1969 are the backbone of his recorded output — definitely a feast for fiddle fanatics, albeit more like eat-your-broccoli fare for many others.
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