The Sunny Mountain Serenaders are a relatively new band, but the members bring a wealth of old-time music experience with them. Mark Campbell is a Virginia fiddler who has won (on fiddle) the prestigious Appalachian String Band Festival contest held in Clifftop, W.Va. Mac Traynham, also from Virginia, has won the same contest on both fiddle and banjo and sings great duets with wife Jenny. John Schwab wrote a book on old-time guitar backup and has played with many bands, including the Hoover Uprights. Mac plays banjo and harmonica and sings lead. John sings harmony. On this recording, they play and sing 18 tunes from Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
They open with a rollicking “Richmond Blues” from Leonard Rutherford. “Trouble Trouble” comes from Florida fiddler Arthur “Cush” Holston, but Mark heard it from Harold Hausenfluck from Richmond. It certainly fits his style of powerfully rhythmic fiddling combined with strong melodies. “The Grey Eagle” from J. Deadrick Harris of Tennessee is quite distinct from other tunes of that name. “Big Bend Gal” is a tongue-twisting minstrel song from the Shelor Family, and Mac’s harmonica makes its entrance here. “Shortnin’ Bread” is from Dykes Magic City Trio. Their “New River Train” comes from Fields and Wade Ward, who played a modal bridge which is not often heard in contemporary versions. The source of “California Cotillion” was a fiddler named Hicks Ring. “Stackalee” derives its fiddling from Ed Haley and its words from Mac Snow and Scotty East from Mt. Airy. The fiddle and harmonica duet on “Home Sweet Home” comes from the Bell Spur String Band and the Red Fox Chasers. “Western Country” is commonly known by several other names; this interesting version is influenced by the great Galax fiddler, Emmett Lundy. Norman Edmonds’ “Callahan” gives another opportunity for this band to show how they can be both loose and tight at the same time. They went back to the Red Fox Chasers and to Charlie Poole for “The Girl I Left In Sunny Tennessee.” Fiddlin’ Powers was the source of “Patty On The Turnpike” with its many extra beats and flourishes. This version of “Lady Of The Lake” from Uncle Norm Edmonds is one of the prettiest. “Virginia Bootlegger” begins as the gospel song “I’m Going Down To The River Of Jordan” and then suddenly transforms, with inspiration from the Red Fox Chasers, into a moonshine-drenched ditty. “Old Time Fire In The Mountain” from Dent Wimmer and Sam Conner sounds like a variation of “Going Across The Sea.” “Waterbound” comes from Fields Ward & the Grayson County Railsplitters. Charlie Bowman and his brothers recorded a skit called “Moonshiner And His Money,” which includes a medley of “Money In Both Pockets” and “Boys My Money’s All Gone.”
This music is intensely danceable and enjoyable. I encourage you to get your own copy and listen to it often. (L-Century, LLC, 7713 Cayuga Ave., Bethesda, MD 20617, www.sunnymountainserenaders.com.)SAG