January 2nd - The 37th Old-Time Fiddlers Convention
The 37th Old-Time Fiddler's Convention at Union Grove, North Carolina - Various Artists, 1962
I knew about the Smithsonian Folkways archive for a few years before I decided to start this project; I'd bought a few albums and spent a lot of time just browsing the impressive website, thinking about all of the albums I'd like to purchase. There was just so much, a lot of it very interesting from an amateur-anthropology perspective but not stuff I would necessarily buy and listen to a lot.
Today's album is actually what inspired this project. I've been getting back into playing violin, and am really interested in old-time fiddling; I also recently got a Spotify account but sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of music available.
Jesus, this makes it sound like I'm an 85 year old college professor. I swear to god I'm thirty.
Anyway! I searched Spotify for "old-time fiddle" and found this incredible album - a live recording of a long-running (and still occurring!) fiddling competition held in Union Grove, North Carolona. The tracks themselves are diverse and short, from old-time standards like Lost John to more bluegrass-ballad-type songs like the weepy Whiskey Took My Daddy Away , and I feel like if I was actually a musicologist I would be able to tell different fiddling styles from one county to another.
The musicianship is uniformly incredible - I really love the version of River Stay Away From My Door - but my favorite part is the remarks from convention founder H.P. Van Hoy, who M.C.'s the proceedings in a way deeply familiar to anyone who grew up around old southern men.
When I found this album I was floored. When I realized it was from Smithsonian Folkways and that ALL of the Smithsonian Folkways albums I had wanted were on Spotify I actually experienced cultural vertigo. I could listen to a new album every day for a year - so, I decided I would.
Click here to read liner notes and purchase this album from Smithsonian Folkways