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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Another dig into southern OT styles

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/54154

Kye - Posted - 10/11/2020:  17:56:14

I know there are details in the archive, though I'm interested in current interpretations.

I'm from up north, where there isn't much in terms of american/southern old time around (contrasted with Canadian old time).

To me, it's all lumped into the category of 'Appalachian'. I know there are far more styles than this, I 'know' there are styles such as Kentucky, Virginia, Round Peak, but I'd catch my death if my life depended on me matching any particular tune to any of those. And yes, I could try youtubing all this and likely will, but in the interest of sparking the forum, I'd love to her your interpretation of a regional style, iconic players of the style, and suggested recordings / you tubes.

Aside from knowing X tune fits into X and maybe Y and Z categories, what in your opinion are the stylistic differences that identifies it as coming from a certain area?

carlb - Posted - 10/12/2020:  05:18:22

With the recording era, I think those that play in a local style, these days, are rare. In my own experience, I've found that even though I treasure the time I spent and learned tunes in central West Virginia (starting in 1972), I think my own style has evolved from a life time of musical experiences which include, not only old time, but also folk, blues, jug band, rag time and classical. So be it. I just try to play well and enjoy making music with others.

I'll just add, in my learning experiences in old time, I almost always go back to the earliest recording and play along with it. Not that I get every note, but try to get the spirit of the tune. I know I did that with Burl Hammons' "Big Scioty" in a band I play in. I sent them all Burl's recording and said that if you can play along with this, then that's fine.

soppinthegravy - Posted - 10/12/2020:  10:51:41

This is a huge generalization, but, while Northern styles focus more on melody, and each state kinda sounds like a hybrid of the states that surround it. Again, it's a huge generalization. Never say "None of these people did this" or "All of these people did that." I used to think pre-Folk-Revival Middle Tennessee fiddlers didn't cross tune, but there's a recording of John Lusk demonstrating various tunings. It's a big melting pot, and this was the case before audio recordings. Audio recording simply sped up the process. I notice that you mentioned Canada. To my knowledge, Tommy Jackson and Howdy Forrester were influenced by Canadian fiddlers, and Canadian fiddlers were influenced by Howdy and Tommy. We're all connected, whether we like it or not.

soppinthegravy - Posted - 10/12/2020:  11:22:47

I notice that West Virginians tend to classify things in terms of counties. I don't hear people talk much about county styles in Tennessee. If we are going to classify regional styles, ... I have heard folks who study Old-Time speak of traditions in the Sequatchie Valley, the Cedar Glades, the Cumberland Plateau, the Smoky Mountains, and upper East Tennessee. Also, I have heard people mention traditions in Dickson County and Hickman County, and there appears to be a fairly strong tradition in Lawrence County, but it's mostly bookworms like myself who think in these terms. The nonacademic people who grew up playing music in those areas typically don't recognize themselves as having a regional style other than Southeastern or Appalachian.

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 10/12/2020 11:25:44

DougD - Posted - 10/12/2020:  11:58:07

I can't begin to answer kye's question, but regarding soppinthegravy's comment about cross tuning in Middle Tennessee, Uncle Bunt Stephens was from there, and I believe "Candy Girl" is crosstuned. Not sure about "Sail Away Lady."
I just tend to think of Tennessee fiddling in terms of regions - Middle Tennessee vs. upper East Tennessed, for example. But there's lots of variation within regions - Ralph Blizard vs. Joe Birchfield up here for example, and there are a couple recordings on my music page here of Red Vance that don't sound like either of them. And there are different time periods to consider too.
Same with North Georgia. We might think of the raucous playing of the Skillet Lickers, but Gid Tanner and Clayton McMichen et. al. had very different styles. And John Carson recorded some wonderfully ornate, archaic sounding songs with fiddle accompaniment. I recorded a few pieces from Ross Brown that were slower and sweet, almost like Clark Kessinger.
Its a complex subject.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 10/12/2020:  18:07:58

I can vouch for the fact that going from one county to another in the state of Kentucky is like going to a foreign country...lol...for whatever that tidbit might be worth...everything's all different...and everybody notices too.

pmiller510 - Posted - 10/13/2020:  05:00:01

I think it's applicable to say there are regional differences in general (Northeastern, Southern, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Canadian, etc. etc.). But it seems to me that I tend to think of it a little finer tuned. Like DougD mentions, it relates more to individuals and those individuals can come from the same region. Missouri seems to have fiddlers that play quite distinctly even though they many come from the same general area. (realizing that Missouri has 3 distinctive regional styles within the state already) I've always thought that Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham sounded quite unique even though they are often referred to as the Round Peak sound. When people ask me where a tune comes from I don't tend to give a region/location, but would say I first heard this from a specific fiddler. The fiddlers I have learned from do the same thing. I might then add what region he/she is from. I like this comment from soppinthegravy - Never say "None of these people did this" or "All of these people did that." There are always unique exceptions which is what makes old time fiddling infinite and fun.

BR5-49 - Posted - 10/13/2020:  08:41:42

Looking at individual fiddlers is the place to start... then seeing similarities in others. Back when mr fiddlepogo was preaching patterns on this site hard, I looked at my bowing analytically maybe for the first time. I was bowing up bows for beginnings and sometimes several notes on one bow. And no intentional shuffle patterns. When I looked at my regional fiddlers... Larry Rush, Grover Broadwater, Joe Coe, Elmer Rich, Woody Simmons, Welch Brothers, JC Hollis, Dave Bing and some other WV fiddlers ... I saw that they shared the similar traits. I spent time with some of them and felt I was listening more than watching, but I ended up bowing like them.

One thing I notice clearly about the larger old time scene is that the fiddlers coming out of the music schools and workshop scene is that they bow nothing like the fiddlers whose tunes they source. They've created something good, but quite different.

alaskafiddler - Posted - 10/13/2020:  16:53:39

Aside from knowing X tune fits into X and maybe Y and Z categories, what in your opinion are the stylistic differences that identifies it as coming from a certain area?

Those are often more historic references. Individual people in the folk world, tend to be influenced, over time play in similar style to the others they most often play with. Even today. Folk music isn't just what people did in the past... but people do today.

Difference today is technology and transportation; mobility and migration... more folks have lot's of individual style choices.



BR5-49 - Posted - 10/16/2020:  12:45:40

I don't think styles were ever very regional in the USA due to how much people traveled. Even someone like Bob Wills in Texas played a style very similar to fiddlers in the upper south.

alaskafiddler - Posted - 10/17/2020:  17:32:31


Originally posted by ShawnCraver

I don't think styles were ever very regional in the USA due to how much people traveled. Even someone like Bob Wills in Texas played a style very similar to fiddlers in the upper south.

Not sure how much he sounds like older generation of upper south fiddlers. Certainly shows signs of lot's of other influences; and innovation. (similar discussions about Arthur Smith).

But just some thoughts. Some reminds me of an ethnomusicologist conference talk; how can often ignores factors of change, innovators, novelty, and degree of popularity (and marketing/promotion)... and feedbacks.  As well regional is  time referenced.

1. Commercial aspect... radio, recordings, but even before that  were fiddle contests; to gigs, dances/performances... all involve a degree of popularity, and most often involves an edge of innovation, uniqueness. That will also feedback, influence others locally to some degree.

2. Similarly, folklorist influence, what and how things got collected, documented or promoted. They often had a confirmation bias, apriori assumption of an idea of purity/traditional and regional; but focused more at the unique, innovators, and/or locally popular players. What collector deemed Iconic players, were not always a great representation of the region/time. In that fact, they were/are often more unique... tend to stand out from the others. This can distort that view of regional, as they were ones ethnomusicologists or folklore collectors (esp revival academics) were more focused interest in, only those certain players, sometimes just a few players in region/time... and those few might get elevated/promoted to the representative paradigm... but not necessarily representative of the average (or diversity) in players of the region/time.

Of course many  today define a bit by what those ethnos/collectors trying to seek and frame, elevate/promote. There was an interesting comment I recall...

"Academic distinctions are just that, and rarely have any influence on what is going on out in the barn."

laugh  There might be some truth to that... a lot of just folks simply played what they play, what they like or have ability.

Just some thoughts.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 10/17/2020 17:33:43

tonyelder - Posted - 10/19/2020:  16:18:37

That was the main point I tried to make when "debating" with aaaaa... anyone, about bowing patterns as a tradition. imo - Those folks we revere from the past are not emblematic of a tradition, as much as they are an example of innovation. I can imagine - they might even get angry with you if you suggested that they played like everyone else - or that everyone else played like them. For the most part, I think they were more interested in trying to set themselves apart from the rest. "Gotta have a gimmick."  To say "everyone" back then was learning and using bowing patterns, so you must do the same or you're doing it wrong...  is (imo) a little misleading. 

For someone today trying to sound just like a certain "old fiddler" from the past - they would do well to learn exactly how that fiddler played - patterns and all.  Other wise - do like most back then (and now), just pick up your fiddle and play. 

I'll go back into hiding now.

Edited by - tonyelder on 10/19/2020 16:23:02

BR5-49 - Posted - 10/19/2020:  18:49:51

I specifically mean Bob Wills fiddling by itself, not his band or arrangements.

GeoB - Posted - 10/23/2020:  12:23:12

Old timey like Wilson Douglas or old timey like Melvin Wine?

Melvin sounds polished in comparison even tho they are from the same timeframe.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 10/28/2020:  14:03:52

I really like that one guy...can't think of his name right now.

groundhogpeggy - Posted - 10/28/2020:  14:04:28

Sorry, sometimes I just amuse myself...lol.

Kye - Posted - 11/09/2020:  09:58:21


Originally posted by soppinthegravy

This is a huge generalization, but,...it or not.


Of course! There's an argument out that our brains generally evolved to 'chunk' data. And if we hadn't done that, we'd be very, very different. Aka.. tables .. come in an unfathomable range of styles and builds. But we need to chunk the idea in to one, and comprehend it as one. So same for the generalization, so thank you. That's a perfect example of what I'm looking for, it's the small things known more locally, so northern, in general, is more melodic. Thanks! I do like when we all get connected ;)


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