Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

141
Fiddle Lovers Online


Aug 22, 2021 - 1:59:10 PM
1479 posts since 7/26/2015

When does an arrangement cross the line into Texas/Weiser contest style? Is every tune played as recorded by contest style's patriarchs necessarily contest style? Some people say J.T. Perkins represents another contest style distinct from that of the Texas/Weiser crowd. What do you think?

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 08/23/2021 21:02:41

Aug 23, 2021 - 5:28:23 AM
likes this

Swing

USA

2070 posts since 6/26/2007

I like listening to Texas/Weiser contest style, but.... often I feel the actual tune gets lost... a good example would be Crafton Blues...originally a slow western swing tune... my favorite version is from the playing of Cliff Bruner... listening to the contest version of it makes it too fast and much too notey... having said that, the technical ability of contest players is pretty amazing but they all sound the same. my 2 cents worth

Play Happy

Swing

Aug 29, 2021 - 9:46:03 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

Here are some people who won the championship at the Tennessee Valley Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention before Dick Barrett (who won in 1971) and before Vernon Solomon won the Grand Masters' contest. Sadly, I don't have recordings from that far back, but these are the same people. Would you call any of them Texas/Weiser contest style? I wouldn't put Bob Douglas, Bill Owen, or James Bryan in that category, but I'm not sure about Frazier Moss and Bill Mitchell.
Bill Owen - https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/media-player/audio_player2.asp?musicid=32660&archived=true
Bill Mitchell - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKYe61XPY1Y
Frazier Moss - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZkIlGcFKZA
Bob Douglas - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujwwXbkSpR4
James Bryan - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56fxntZ4QQ8  
 
quote:
Originally posted by Swing

I like listening to Texas/Weiser contest style, but.... often I feel the actual tune gets lost... a good example would be Crafton Blues...originally a slow western swing tune... my favorite version is from the playing of Cliff Bruner... listening to the contest version of it makes it too fast and much too notey... having said that, the technical ability of contest players is pretty amazing but they all sound the same. my 2 cents worth

Play Happy

Swing


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 08/29/2021 22:04:10

Sep 1, 2021 - 8:46:05 AM
like this

24 posts since 9/22/2013

As Swing says, players of the contest fiddle style tend to recycle old variations from Benny Thomasson and Mark O'Connor endlessly. Often old tunes are blended and the result can indeed sound "same-y".

That being said, I do occasionally enjoy hearing the classically-derived technical proficiency of players such as Katrina Nicolayeff and Megan Lynch Chowning and become inspired to get better at the fingerboard above the first position. For better or worse, I'm a self-taught player.

One fiddler who inspired me from the beginning is Dick Barrett. He played mostly in the Texas style, but he also recorded many tasteful and very old-timey versions of the standard American tunes. His collection "At The Fiddlers Knee" is available in its entirety on Youtube.

Sep 1, 2021 - 9:37:02 AM

DougD

USA

10329 posts since 12/2/2007

Interesting comments, Larry. Thanks for the tip on Dick Barrett.

Sep 1, 2021 - 9:43:36 AM
likes this

2004 posts since 8/27/2008

Backup chording and style too.

Sep 1, 2021 - 10:03:55 AM

Mobob

USA

178 posts since 10/1/2009

Dick Barrett did a number of self produced LPs back in the 1970's which are long out of print and near impossible to find, the above mentioned cd is available if you look hard, also a cd of swing tunes done with Paul Anastassio. I once contacted his widow, Lisa, but she had no interest in making any of his recordings available. He, like Thomasson, tended to play at a slower tempo

Sep 1, 2021 - 12:39:30 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

I recently heard that album, and it blew me away how old-timey it sounded in contrast to the style with which he is associated. Megan can play old-time well, too. I was surprised when I heard a recording of her in the Traditional category at the Grand Masters. I wasn't there, but a buddy of mine shared it with me via YouTube when we were discussing this topic. I made some comment about her being contest style and he said "Listen to this and tell me that's contest fiddle. Ivy Phillips and Tyler Andal are two more fiddlers in this area who can fit in well with pretty much any style.. "quote:
Originally posted by Larry Ayers

As Swing says, players of the contest fiddle style tend to recycle old variations from Benny Thomasson and Mark O'Connor endlessly. Often old tunes are blended and the result can indeed sound "same-y".

That being said, I do occasionally enjoy hearing the classically-derived technical proficiency of players such as Katrina Nicolayeff and Megan Lynch Chowning and become inspired to get better at the fingerboard above the first position. For better or worse, I'm a self-taught player.

One fiddler who inspired me from the beginning is Dick Barrett. He played mostly in the Texas style, but he also recorded many tasteful and very old-timey versions of the standard American tunes. His collection "At The Fiddlers Knee" is available in its entirety on Youtube.


Sep 1, 2021 - 12:59:54 PM
likes this

24 posts since 9/22/2013

Another fiddler who plays both Texas-style and old-timey tunes is Texas Shorty (James Chancellor). His playing on the 2011 duo CD "Old Sport" is wonderful: very relaxed, tasteful, and nimble. If only I could turn down the volume of John Hartford's banjo so as to hear the fiddle playing better! There is a late-night front porch ambience to that recording which pleases me.

Sep 1, 2021 - 5:16:15 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

The banjo doesn't bother me. I think more contest players should use banjo accompaniment instead of tenor guitar, but my being a banjo player might have something to do with that. From what I can tell, all of the guys who started Texas/Contest Style could play Old-Time. I just wonder when it crosses the line from being Old-Time Texas fiddle to the style we are familiar with hearing in so many contests since the late 1960s. People point to longer bow strokes, more notes, heavy improvisation and/or variation. The same terms could be used to describe Bluegrass, but this style sounds very different from Bluegrass, at least to my ears. Thoughts?
quote:
Originally posted by Larry Ayers

Another fiddler who plays both Texas-style and old-timey tunes is Texas Shorty (James Chancellor). His playing on the 2011 duo CD "Old Sport" is wonderful: very relaxed, tasteful, and nimble. If only I could turn down the volume of John Hartford's banjo so as to hear the fiddle playing better! There is a late-night front porch ambience to that recording which pleases me.


Sep 2, 2021 - 10:02:22 AM
like this

24 posts since 9/22/2013

I play daily with my partner Jennifer, who is a skilled clawhammer player. She got me hooked on the interplay of banjo and fiddle.

As for the difference between contest and bluegrass styles, to my ear the contest players tend to play worked-up variations, though in an informal context you often hear full-blown jazz improvisations, some of which pretty-well lose the tune eventually. Bluegrass players tend to be speedy and use blues-based licks thrown in as ornaments. It's a continuum, though!

I like to improvise and play variations on the fly, but with OT tunes I make an attempt to reign in those tendencies. It really depends on the tune. Some tunes are fully-formed works of audio art and resist variation, while others, especially the chord-progression-based tunes, invite variation. Blackberry Blossom is an example of the latter type.

I used to play more Irish and Scottish than OT. An Irish player named John Carty has impressed me for years with his ability to play slight variations on a tune without losing the tune's essential recognizable character.

Sep 18, 2021 - 4:32:54 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

Edited by - soppinthegravy on 09/18/2021 16:34:52

Sep 18, 2021 - 5:10:22 PM
likes this

5486 posts since 9/26/2008

I've always felt the fiddling in Smith's Garage Fiddle Band sounded somewhat old world with its stutter triplets and the regular use of single bow strokes; their "Done Gone" is one of my very favorites. Bell was old time all the way. Georgia Slim was a slick old time player, as was Mr Haley, both of whom could play the heck out of a tune and were maybe precursors to your contest style. Mears sounds like a true long bower, several places with at least 4 notes on a bow. Moss sounds like a country fiddler to my ears, right down to his tune choice. Seems very similar to Tommy Jackson.

Sep 18, 2021 - 10:06:55 PM
likes this

24 posts since 9/22/2013

In response to ChickenMan's comment, with which I mostly agree, to my ears Frazier Moss sounds more like a bluegrass player, with his sustained double-stops, frenetic pace, and use of double-shuffle. A couple of the other fiddlers in the Missouri fiddlers Bandcamp collection, Bob Walsh and Johnny Bruce, are well worth a listen. Their repertoires and playing styles show some bluegrass and a bit of Texas influence.

Although the recordings at Bandcamp are indistinct, Jack Mears really does sound like a pre-Thomasson Texas fiddler, with many old-time characteristics.

Sep 19, 2021 - 6:06:19 AM
likes this

5486 posts since 9/26/2008

Yes, Moss sounds like Paul Warren in many ways. Not modern bluegrass or Benny Martin, but an earlier more OT style of grass.

Sep 19, 2021 - 2:52:49 PM
likes this

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

Man, I love Paul Warren. I had the pleasure of recording with his son Johnny. For what it's worth, Frazier and Paul called what they were doing "old-time fiddle". Paul wrote a letter to Vernon Riddle commenting on how the Texas style was "different from our mountain style". Frazier said he had a lot of respect for Clayton McMichen. I have read that Uncle Jimmy Thompson taught him "Grey Eagle". I've seen a number of sources call Frazier "Texas long bow", but, from what I've seen of him, I'd call him anything but a longbower. His bowing makes me think of folks like Bob Douglas. Also,  Jim Wood told me that Frazier was influenced by Clark Kessinger. I think Benny Martin could have held his own in an old-time setting, too. One of the local dance fiddlers, Paul Warren's first cousin Clebert, listed Benny as one of his influences, but he noted that he much preferred Benny's earlier stuff. Also, another local dance fiddler, Richard Hoffman, had a version of "Grey Eagle" that sounds to me like he learned it from Benny.  
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

Yes, Moss sounds like Paul Warren in many ways. Not modern bluegrass or Benny Martin, but an earlier more OT style of grass.


Sep 19, 2021 - 3:12:25 PM
like this

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

I hear a lot of Georgia Slim in the older contest players who would enter at Athens like J.T. Perkins. On the "tune choice" thing, somebody commented to me how local fiddlers used to have a relatively common repertoire across genres but the new neo-old-time crowd showing up in recent years doesn't play the same tunes the old guys did. Most of them don't seem to care about the old guys, because they don't match one of the definitions of old-time found in their books, although there are a few exceptions. I never understood how today's old-time players and teachers can justify snubbing local old-timers for being influenced by Bill Monroe when theirs is influenced by Bob Dylan.
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

I've always felt the fiddling in Smith's Garage Fiddle Band sounded somewhat old world with its stutter triplets and the regular use of single bow strokes; their "Done Gone" is one of my very favorites. Bell was old time all the way. Georgia Slim was a slick old time player, as was Mr Haley, both of whom could play the heck out of a tune and were maybe precursors to your contest style. Mears sounds like a true long bower, several places with at least 4 notes on a bow. Moss sounds like a country fiddler to my ears, right down to his tune choice. Seems very similar to Tommy Jackson.


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 09/19/2021 15:12:53

Sep 25, 2021 - 7:43:51 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

I meant to upload this, but I forgot. This is how I tend to play "Billy in the Lowground" when I'm trying to play fancy. Is this still Old-Time, or does it cross the line into Texas/Contest Style or Bluegrass?


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 09/25/2021 19:51:19

Sep 26, 2021 - 6:02:56 PM
like this

gapbob

USA

787 posts since 4/20/2008

Most of these folks I've listened to are old time, though some reach towards contest style. I would say that those who do are the highly polished commercial players, which is how modern texas style/contest style sounds to me.

I suppose the real proof in the pudding would be:

1. Can you play it that way for a traditional square dance (not a synchronized, crinoline clogger type "square" dance, nor do you have to take a class to be able to attend) at 120 bpm for ten minute—would the dancers like to dance to it? (old time)
2. Can you play it for a performance and not find the audience getting bored? (modern texas/contest style)

Does the accompaniment have minors and 7th chords, use sock time rhythm accompaniment, (jazzy)? (Modern Texas/Contest style)

"I meant to upload this, but I forgot. This is how I tend to play "Billy in the Lowground" when I'm trying to play fancy. Is this still Old-Time, or does it cross the line into Texas/Contest Style or Bluegrass?
Yep, you have the start of making a good modern Texas style tune.

Edited by - gapbob on 09/26/2021 18:08:23

Sep 26, 2021 - 7:31:19 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

Concerning contest and commercial fiddling, I think the sound of commercial fiddling has changed considerably because of the influence of  contest players who went on to pursue music as a career. Jimmy Mattingly, Alison Krauss, Brandon Apple, Andy Leftwich, Mark O'Connor, Deanie Richardson, and Hillary Klug come to mind fairly quickly. I honestly wasn't intending for that tune to have a Texas-Style sound. The licks came from souped-up Old-Time and old-school Bluegrass guys, but I guess they were influenced somewhat by Texas Style, or some of their heroes like Howdy and Slim were, and that trickled down. I don't know. I've got at least ten different versions of "Billy in the Lowground" floating around in my head and I can never figure out how to play it. Here are a few more arrangements that I worry have crossed the line.
quote:
Originally posted by gapbob

Most of these folks I've listened to are old time, though some reach towards contest style. I would say that those who do are the highly polished commercial players, which is how modern texas style/contest style sounds to me.

I suppose the real proof in the pudding would be:

1. Can you play it that way for a traditional square dance (not a synchronized, crinoline clogger type "square" dance, nor do you have to take a class to be able to attend) at 120 bpm for ten minute—would the dancers like to dance to it? (old time)
2. Can you play it for a performance and not find the audience getting bored? (modern texas/contest style)

Does the accompaniment have minors and 7th chords, use sock time rhythm accompaniment, (jazzy)? (Modern Texas/Contest style)

"I meant to upload this, but I forgot. This is how I tend to play "Billy in the Lowground" when I'm trying to play fancy. Is this still Old-Time, or does it cross the line into Texas/Contest Style or Bluegrass?
Yep, you have the start of making a good modern Texas style tune.



Edited by - soppinthegravy on 09/26/2021 19:41:56

Sep 27, 2021 - 7:08 AM
likes this

gapbob

USA

787 posts since 4/20/2008

I would say these are quite fine.

The biggest indication that one is doing Texas /Contest style (to me) is that you have left the melody behind at some points, which your version of Billy in the Lowground did—playing through long notes, making a sequence of notes into a long note, double stopping on a long note, etc.  Often the tunes are played at a slower tempo.

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Concerning contest and commercial fiddling, I think the sound of commercial fiddling has changed considerably because of the influence of  contest players who went on to pursue music as a career. Jimmy Mattingly, Alison Krauss, Brandon Apple, Andy Leftwich, Mark O'Connor, Deanie Richardson, and Hillary Klug come to mind fairly quickly. I honestly wasn't intending for that tune to have a Texas-Style sound. The licks came from souped-up Old-Time and old-school Bluegrass guys, but I guess they were influenced somewhat by Texas Style, or some of their heroes like Howdy and Slim were, and that trickled down. I don't know. I've got at least ten different versions of "Billy in the Lowground" floating around in my head and I can never figure out how to play it. Here are a few more arrangements that I worry have crossed the line.
quote:
Originally posted by gapbob

Most of these folks I've listened to are old time, though some reach towards contest style. I would say that those who do are the highly polished commercial players, which is how modern texas style/contest style sounds to me.

I suppose the real proof in the pudding would be:

1. Can you play it that way for a traditional square dance (not a synchronized, crinoline clogger type "square" dance, nor do you have to take a class to be able to attend) at 120 bpm for ten minute—would the dancers like to dance to it? (old time)
2. Can you play it for a performance and not find the audience getting bored? (modern texas/contest style)

Does the accompaniment have minors and 7th chords, use sock time rhythm accompaniment, (jazzy)? (Modern Texas/Contest style)

"I meant to upload this, but I forgot. This is how I tend to play "Billy in the Lowground" when I'm trying to play fancy. Is this still Old-Time, or does it cross the line into Texas/Contest Style or Bluegrass?
Yep, you have the start of making a good modern Texas style tune.


 


Edited by - gapbob on 09/27/2021 07:08:45

Sep 27, 2021 - 4:48:03 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

I think people need to be able to play for the cloggers, too. The cloggers in my neck of the woods are not a fan of the shift toward fancy fiddling that obscures the beat. One member of a clogging square dance team commented on a contest-style guy who plays for the dance contests at a local festival. She said something about him being a great fiddler but being too fancy and not knowing how to put the drive in it for the dancers. I think fiddlers being taught to avoid the Nashville shuffle (Here in Nashville area, we just the shuffle.) has hurt danceability considerably, at least from the Southeastern perspective.   
quote:
Originally posted by gapbob

I suppose the real proof in the pudding would be:

Can you play it that way for a traditional square dance (not a synchronized, crinoline clogger type "square" dance, nor do you have to take a class to be able to attend) at 120 bpm for ten minute—would the dancers like to dance to it? (old time)

 


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 09/27/2021 16:49:29

Oct 1, 2021 - 5:23:14 PM

1479 posts since 7/26/2015

Speaking of Benny Martin, I read somewhere that Frazier Moss was the guy who taught him standard GDAE tuning. Before Frazier showed that to him, Benny played everything in cross tunings. Benny wrote a song called "The Right Melody" to the tune of "Capri Waltz", which Frazier played with the Cluster Pluckers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQrBrHQ_Se0
quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan

Yes, Moss sounds like Paul Warren in many ways. Not modern bluegrass or Benny Martin, but an earlier more OT style of grass.


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 10/01/2021 17:27:54

Oct 2, 2021 - 7:41:28 AM

5486 posts since 9/26/2008

Bent may have started out cross tuning, but he became the father of modern bluegrass fiddling with his wild licks being copied by many who came after him.

Oct 2, 2021 - 8:17:19 AM

5486 posts since 9/26/2008

Ach! Benny, not Bent. Too slow to get it edited.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.28125