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Altamont -- Black Stringband Music from the Library of Congress CD

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Format: Music CD, Library of Congress Records. Classic Jazz music CD
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 27, 2015)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Rounder
  • Run Time: 37 minutes
  • ASIN: B0000002I3
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,900 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A while ago, I had the chance to spend the day with the Great Stu Jameson, an old time music player and historian, an expert on the banjo, and on everything else, who recorded the second half of this CD back in the 1940s. He explained that he and folklorist and Square Dance expert Margret Mayo had journeyed to areas in the South where they both had relatives looking for banjo players and fiddlers to record to help document the styles and techniques of playing that the traditional players used. STU pointed out that even among people who did field recordings of traditional music few understood why they wanted to document or preserve this side of the music at all. Moreover, many had ascribed the niche of guitar accompanied blues to Black performers, and were uninterested or unconcerned about Black string bands.

In fact, the recording industry either ignored this music while recording lots of white string band music, or released black string band playing under assumed names as white string b and playing. That's right, such great Black players as Lonnie Johnson the blues guitarist, and the Mississippi Sheiks, the most popular blues singers in Mississippi in the late 1920s and early 1930s, recorded records that were sold as white string band music.

Stu said that when he arrived in a nearby area to visit an aunt, everyone around, even people who noteably racist in their description of African Americans said if that this group was the best music he would ever hear of any kind. He described how when they first became recording how so many of the local folks gathered and how at first they whooped and hollored and danced, and how hard it was to get them to be quiet so the recording could be done.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
There's not a lot on this cd, but what there is, is choice. It suffers from the field-recording technology of the '40s, but if you enjoy trad banjo and fiddle, you'll listen over and over to it.

(The cover shows one of three portraits of anonymous African-American traditional musicians painted by Wm. Sidney Mount (1807-1868), the other two being of a fiddler and a bones player. All three men are well-dressed and obviously respected masters of their instrument)
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Format: Audio CD
Fascinating and historically significant field recordings of African-American string band music. If you think that whites invented country music and bluegrass, check out these recordings, cut in the 1940's but representing a much earlier tradition, when black musicians liberated American fiddle playing from the sweet and melody-driven tunes of Europe, and introduced the concept of rhythm into the mountains. Actually, these 14 tracks, by two different string bands, are often impossible to tell apart from white groups unless you know what to listen for. Oh, and a little hint for the skeptical - just because the fiddle is screechy doesn't mean these aren't accomplished musicians. Docked one star for the miserable sound quality - it's not like it could sound any better than it does, but the intense lo-fi will probably alientate the uninitiated. Of course, I doubt if the uninitiated are interested anyway. Give it a shot!
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