Whenever I would visit Lou Curtiss’ Folk Arts Rare Records, his Fiddle music section was one of my favorite spots to look in. And man, I would discover some really great records there. Got quite an education through these records. And to be honest, I don’t think many people bought them, meaning there were some seriously brilliant records just waiting to be had. All kinds of Appalachian gems on small labels or random private labels. Lou had some serious stuff, and I’m pretty sure I bought this record off of him at one point or another.
American Fiddle music is kind of like a religion to me. The music wakes something up within me, makes me feel elated & alive, making me want to dance, cry & stomp my feet all at the same time. It must be my Irish-American background.
The fiddle music of Northeast Mississippi really gets me fired up & elated. This hard-drivin’, rough & repetitive, violent music is a perfect reflection of America’s tortured, beautiful soul. These records are just reeking with stubbornness. Carter Brothers & Son’s use the quirky square dance calls of “kill yourself!”, most associated with Uncle Dave Macon’s “Way Down The Old Plank Road”. I look at “kill yourself!” as being synonymous with “let it all hang out”, “go crazy folks”, “get on down”, or as Seven Foot and his Dill Pickles would say, “bust down”. And with this Northeastern Mississippi shit, a hell raisin’ stomper will be followed with one of the prettiest tunes you’ll ever hear. Sounds like America to me. If America’s ghosts got their hands on a victrola, they’d want to play this stuff. And these musicians hailed from regions that weren’t very far from the towns that birthed Elvis and the Howlin’ Wolf.
Hoyt Ming & his Pep Steppers were one of the most haunting & unique sounding Old-Time groups ever. Ming & his wife were potato farmers, lived into the 1980’s and even appeared at some folk festivals in the early 1970’s. That would be some show. And the twin fiddling of the Carters Brothers & Son are as eccentric and wild as it gets. Check out that amazing photo at the top-right of the cover! This regional style of fiddling is still celebrated every year at the Great Big Yam Potatoes Old Time Music Gathering in Washington, Mississippi.
Mississippi Breakdown: Traditional Music of Mississppi Vol. 1 (County Records, 1975) is available at Folk Arts for $20. I also have the wonderful Great Big Yam Potatoes collection of field recordings, and many other similar releases on labels like County Records. My Old-Time music sections are off the charts good right now. You shouldn’t sleep on it, cause this stuff doesn’t come through the door very often.