Field Recorders Collective has become the foremost vehicle for getting music by master old-time musicians into the hands of listeners. As such, they have become in essence a public archive of recordings made during the old-time revival by exceptional collectors and musicians. Times have changed a lot since our friends were recording the traditional bearers back in the 1960s and 1970s, and they have changed since FRC produced its first CD. FRC, therefore, is now making some of their classic early CDs available as digital downloads.
Tommy Jarrell is the Grateful Dead of traditional fiddle recordings. Everybody seemed to record both, and those recordings seem to be everywhere, but the fans still want more. Even though, like his son Benny, we know what he is going to say and what he is going to play, we eat it up. During the last year of Tommy's life, Paul Brown took him to Massachusetts for the Pinewoods Music Camp. Just like at home, Tommy's "teaching" consisted of him playing and sometimes singing, often expertly accompanied by Paul and Mike Seeger. New Yorker Jerry Epstein captured much of the "classes." Tommy Jarrell, Vol. 2 (FRC212) is the second collection drawn from those tapes. The album collects 30 tunes, which helps it stand out from the field. With the 27 selections on Vol. 1, they form a comprehensive collection of Tommy repertoire. Vol. 2 include the "hits" such as "Breaking Up Christmas" and "Joke on the Puppy" and less heard pieces such as "When Sorrows Encompass Me Around" and "Rochester Schottische."
Albert Hash remains a legend in the old-time world as fiddler, tradition bearer, band leader, and luthier. Unlike the other two projects here, the music on Albert Hash, Vol. 2 (FRC707) comes from multiple sources including Wayne Henderson, the Spencers, and the Augusta Heritage Center. Delightfully, several of the 31, yes, 31 tunes include spoken comments by Hash. He plays plenty of the old familars, his original "My Whitetop Mountain Home," and a cover of the pop song, "Love Letters in the Sand." With the variety and intros, this is essential for any Hash fan.
Less well known, and thus even more important to have been recorded, are the The Kimball and Wagoner Families (FRC-06). Fiddler Taylor Kimble (1892-1979) raised two children who are recorded here with his first wife and then remarried at 76, to banjo player Stella Wagoner, also heard here. Ray Alden began recording them in 1972. This release is derived from a double cassette Ray released from those tapes. The set contains far more singing than the other two sets but is more important is what it tells us about the roles of family, place, and time in traditional music. For example, we find the Oak Ridge Boys' hit "The Baptism of Jesse Taylor" and "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" from Wanda Jackson and Linda Ronstadt in among "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" and "Georgia Buck." Other titles have morphed such as "Duncan and Brady" becoming "Brady Why Didn't You Run" and taking on some aspects of "Otto Wood the Bandit."
If you love the old music and understand about the fidelity of field recordings, you'll live the Field Recorders Collective catalog.
In 1918 Cecil Sharp found Joe Blackard a rich source as he collected songs for his book English Folksongs from the Southern Mountains. Joe Blackard's daughter Clarice learned to play piano by listening to her father play banjo and, after her marriage to fiddler Jesse Shelor, they formed a family band. In 1927, along with Jesse's brother Pyrhus, the band traveled to Bristol, Tennessee to record four songs for the famous session that has been described as the "big bang of country music." In the summer of 1975, Dave Spilkia and I rented a house in Meadows of Dan, Virginia to spend time with this marvelous family. On Sundays, Jesse and Clarice's children Joe, Paul, Jimmy along with nephew Bill and granddaughter Susan would come for a visit and tunes would result. - Ray Alden