MUSIC FROM THE SOUTH
Mining a deep catalog is a win-win for the company and for collectors of older music and videos. Some of these old clips were released on scattered disc before. The music collected here gives the viewer a chance to see a wide range of American indigenous music in its natural setting. Clark Kessinger was a born entertainer, and he loved an audience. He is presented here doing what he does best, playing the heck out of the fiddle and mugging for the camera. His playing was always interesting and would nearly run off the track, but everything was under control. He is probably the most professional of the players presented here. His bowing is a study in control, and he is always on for his audience.
Kilby Snow is a much lower energy performer, but his autoharp playing is of first-rate quality. Jimmy Driftwood acts as an interviewer and performs a couple of pieces on his mouth bow. The Coon Creek Girls were formed to be part of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. They’re represented here by two songs in their driving style with Rosie Ledford on guitar and vocals and Lilly May on banjo and vocals. The band originally was a quartet. From there, we move way down South to Louisiana where we get a taste of early Zydeco music, the R&B of Cajun music with the great fiddler Canray Fontenot and Alphonsos “Bois Sec” Ardion. Their plaintive music, sung in Creole French is highly danceable, filled with a driving edge. Moving up to the hill country of Mississippi, we are treated to the fife and drum music of Ed and Lonnie Young and the Fife And Drum Band. This music still exists in that region and is intoxicating in its rhythm and texture. Chanted vocals over the drum intermingle with the fife into an enchanting, surreal sound with an out-of-this-world feel.
The balance of the DVD presents a gospel song by Jessie Mae Hemphill and group singing “Get Right Church.” Then we are on to several examples of the Bo-Diddley or Diddley-Bo, a one-string instrument made from bottles, nails, and a house, or even a large plank. When folks had no money, they still made music. We are treated to four different versions of a well-known blues tune, “Roll And Tumble Blues,” with each artist presenting his take with many shared lyrics, but not all lyrics being the same. The claims to authorship and history are interesting, but nothing says folk process like hearing the range of interpretations a song can take on.
This is a valuable look into music of a half-century ago. This very music had an influence on the music we play today, and to have such a wide range of it available to see and hear is a treasure and joy. (Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, P.O. Box 802, Sparta, NJ 07871, www.guitarvideos.com.)RCB