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Family Tradition

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Audio CD, September 22, 2009
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Family Tradition + Black Banjo Songsters of N Carolina & Virginia + Altamont -- Black Stringband Music from the Library of Congress
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Joe Thompson is among the last African-American fiddlers still active in the South. A member of a North Carolina farming family with an active stringband tradition, Joe has been playing music since the 1920s. Released to coincide with Joe's eightieth birthday, this disc documents tunes and songs going back three generations of Thompson family musicians.

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A country-blues mix with a few hymns thrown in for good measure, this album from North Carolina fiddler Joe Thompson conjures up notions like summertime... outdoors... parties. Thompson did the arranging, but most of the tunes are traditional, providing a snapshot of a regional music that has gone pretty much unchanged for years--Thompson himself has been playing since the 1920s. It's not as daring or genre-bending as, say, Gatemouth Brown, but it is a lot of fun. --Genevieve Williams


Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 22, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder
  • Run Time: 49 minutes
  • ASIN: B00000JMCD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,912 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Shlomo Pestcoe on August 29, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This is a very important album. It documents Joe Thompson (born in 1918) of Alamance County, North Carolina, one of the last African-American fiddlers who still plays in the pre-blues old-time style. Joe was born into a North Carolina Piedmont farming family that produced many fine fiddlers and banjo players, including his father, John Arch (1879-1968), and his paternal uncles, Jacob A. (1876-?) and Walter E. (1882-?). Joe's father and uncles were much sought-after musicians for square dances in both the white and black communities of Orange County.
"Frolics" -- dance parties featuring "eight-hand sets" square dancing to the music of the fiddle and 5-string banjo (you were invited to a frolic with the phrase, "Hands-up eight and don't be late!") -- were the main form of social recreation in the rural black communities of North Carolina's Piedmont back in Joe's youth. As children, Joe and his older brother Nate (1916-1997) began playing for local frolics and house parties, often with their uncle Walter's son, Odell (1911-1994). By the 1930s, guitar-based blues began making inroads into their community, so Nate and Odell also doubled on the guitar to accompany the latest popular couple dances that were interspersed between the eight-hand sets. Joe, however, preferred to "hang to" the fiddle and the old-time music of his father and uncles.
After his military tour of duty in Europe, Joe returned to North Carolina to settle down and raise a family. He continued to play on occasion with his cousin Odell, who would back him up on the banjo, but the old-time frolics of their youth had all but disappeared from their community-- R&B and Rock & Roll were all the rage.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on April 24, 2003
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When I bought this CD I expected it would just be interesting culturally to hear an old fiddler,probably past his prime, preserving the dying culture of Black fiddling. Boy was I wrong. This record is a joy to hear, nice to listen to, a real highpoint to learn from as I aspire to be a fiddler. His playing is crisp, blusy and rhythmic. The singing is very good and the accompaniment is very rhythmic, but understated to let us hear who the real star is. The rhytmn is very nice and novel. This is fun to listen to. Real folk music.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A very good album that highlights the slight cultural differences between afro american and euro american music in the piedmont area.
Joe Thompsons music is very smooth when compared to others such as Dink Roberts, John Snips et al; it emphasises the cultural exchange between races that has occurred within Old Time music.
The downside is that the setting is that of a string band rather than fiddle & banjo duet, for my personal tastes the double bass & guitar are an intrusion
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joy Salyers on February 24, 2012
Format: Audio CD
We shouldn't be surprised to hear of the death of a 93 year-old man, yet we just can't seem to wrap our heads around a North Carolina without Joe Thompson, who passed away Monday, February 20, 2012. Read more about this amazing musician, and mentor to the Carolina Chocolate Groups here: [...]. It just might make you want to check out his music!
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