By Pat Mac Swyney

hog eyed man coverOld World Music of the Southern Appalachians is the 4th release from Old-Time duo Hog-Eyed Man; featuring Clifftop fiddle champion Jason Cade accompanied by talented multi-instrumentalist Rob McMaken. Jason grew up learning older fiddle tunes and styles from Bruce Greene in Yancey County, North Carolina as well as from his mother’s teacher Byard Ray. Rob hails from north Georgia and provides a solid, engaging back up with chording and melodic lines on mandolin, guitar and lap dulcimer.

It is often assumed that American Old-Time fiddle music is largely derivative of Irish, Scottish, French and other northern European fiddle music. While it is certainly true that European immigrants brought their music with them to the New World, it should be noted that the fiddle, as a folk instrument, was still relatively new during the early migration periods of the late 17th and 18th centuries. As such, regional American fiddle music was also developing independently from Europe. This was especially true outside urban areas in the mountains of Appalachia and rural south where northern European fiddle dance tunes blended with west African banjo and song to define what we have come to know as American Old-Time Music.

As the title would suggest, Old World Music of the Appalachians explores northern European influence in early Old-Time music but does not restrict itself to this, so there is no shortage of hardcore Appalachian reels and breakdowns, along with some terrific Native American fiddle tunes as well. The record kicks off with a fierce take of Jack Wilson from seminal Kentucky fiddler John Salyer (1882-1952). On a record of flawless and inspired fiddle tunes, a few personal favorites include Woodswoman (Indian Squaw) and Rebel Raid from the playing of West Virginia-Kentucky fiddler Ed Haley (1885-1951); another Salyer tune Kentucky Winder; and the sublime, stately Indian Nation from Kentucky fiddler Hiram Stamper (1893-1992) that closes the album.

There are several tunes of Irish origin, including an especially groovy rendition of Spike Island Lasses; Larry Redican’s The Ironing Board, reworked as Redican’s Trip to Appalachia in a decidedly “not Irish” AEAE Cross tuning; and an especially lovely march setting of the old melody An Lon Dubh (The Blackbird) titled Wounded Hoosier in open DDAD Dead Man’s tuning by way of North Carolina fiddler Marcus Martin (1881-1974). There is also a set of North Carolina jigs; a slow, stately Martin’s Jig followed by a more upbeat Snowbird, again from the playing of Marcus Martin. The latter is attributed to Cherokee warrior and fiddler Junaluska (1775-1868) as is the wonderful breakdown Georgia Horseshoe which presumably commemorates the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814 where Junaluska fought alongside Andrew Jackson against the Muscogee (Creek Tribe); saving Jackson’s life but later regretting it. These and Manco Sneed’s Grey Eagle comprise a refreshing representation of Cherokee fiddle tunes featured on this record.

Jason’s fiddling is powerful and inspired with respect to both the source recordings and spirit of the older generation of fiddlers that he admires. Not surprising given his life long journey exploring some of America’s earliest fiddle tunes and styles and as fiddle champion at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop WV. Rob’s back up on mandolin, dulcimer and guitar are always spot on with an innovative mix of melody, drone and chord voicings. For those of us who survived the dulcimer craze of the 1980s, Rob’s dulcimer playing is an absolute revelation. I feel like we hear Appalachian lap dulcimer on everything from “Celtic” folk to modern pop but rarely in its original genre of Appalachian Trad. and never so deftly. The duo are backed up by Nancy and Charlie Hartness from The Skeleton Keys and Hawk Proof Rooster on guitar and ukulele, as well Tom Baker on fingerpicked and clawhammer banjo, and the legendary Art Rosenbaum on banjo and a few songs. The CD layout and whimsical illustrations are courtesy of Texas fiddler and artist Howard Rains.

This marks the 13th release from David Bragger’s and Rick Hocutt’s Old-Time Tiki Parlour and available on-line.

Pat Mac Swyney is a local musician and teacher who plays Traditional Jazz with The SWING RIOTS Quirktette; Balkan with NEVENKA; Old-Time with The SHAKYTOWN RAMBLERS and SAUSAGE GRINDER.