Harry Bolick has published a book about fiddle tunes from his home state of Mississippi. In his research for that book, he found many titles for which the recordings were lost or never existed. Bolick calls these “orphaned” titles for which the melodies are lost. In a devoted exercise of creating tradition, disc one has 34 of these orphaned titles supplied with new melodies—10 composed by Bolick and 24 by musicologist Pat Conte. Disc two has 29 recordings of these and other tunes played by Bolick and friends. The liner notes begin with an epigraph from Conte from which I quote a portion: “Fiddling remains, in one form or another, one of the most vital folk music traditions in America today. One would not know it, based on these samples. But they provide a window into something.”
It will take several cups of coffee (or other stimulant) to get through the sparse and scratchy fiddling on the first disc, but the evocative titles are worth it: “Cotton Choppin’ Dick,” “Dead Cow Up The Creek,” “Emmanuel Veins,” “Frostbitten Peas,” “Valley School Bus,” “Rank And Randy,” “All My Candy’s Gone,” “Mean World,” “Whole Hog Or None,” “Indian At The Ferry,” “Fat Possum,” “Turkey In The Raw,” and “Punchin’ Dough,” for example. The second disc has modern and very listenable recordings of contemporary musicians rendering many of those tunes, along with such gems as “Wooden-Legged Dinah,” “Had A Fight In Mexico,” “Soldiers Dreams,” “Bake My Biscuits,” “Sandy Loves Taters,” “Frog Mouth,” and “Automobile Life.” One tune, “One-Eyed Goose” by Pat Conte, has even shown up lately in a local jam this reviewer attends.
It isn’t often that you get to hear tunes that are completely lost. Here is your opportunity. (Harry Bolick, 69 Miller Hill Rd., Hopewell Junction, NY 12533, www.harrybolick.com.)SAG