Video Playlist: Fiddlin’ Season
inTheir Musicon August 31, 2020
This is the first year I have not made my yearly pilgrimage to the Old time fiddle festivals in Galax, VA and Mount Airy, NC in my adult life. These music festivals and others peppered throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall across the hills and valleys of Appalachia are the yearly fuel injection put into the locomotive that is Appalachian musical heritage. They are Hajj for fiddle and banjo players. Players camp out over the hillside and play through the night, wandering from campsite to campsite reuniting with old friends, making new friends drinking warm beer and playing tunes until the sun comes up.
The excuse for the festival is supposedly the contest run from the bandstand and broadcast on the local radio station. Nearly every attendee competes to get their festival entry fee reimbursed. Among them, there are a couple of handfuls of real contenders who year after year compete fiercely with each other and themselves to make the judges perk their ears and to walk home with a ribbon and a cash prize. Music Maker artist, the late Benton Flippen had enough ribbons to cover a wall in his living room.Apparently this is the first time since World War II that the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, the country’s oldest (85 YEARS!), took a break and the only time Mt. Airy has taken a break in its existence since the 1970s. It’s truly impossible to emphasize enough the significance of these gatherings in the preservation of these traditions and to the communities that keep them.
In this collection, I’ve selected a list of songs played at a recent “old time jam” I attended and tried to find versions on youtube where they were played in a jam. There are a few where I just went with the one that sounded best to me. There are some hot fiddlers in here and a fair representation of the places where this music is made, though not complete. I’ve included some Music Maker friends like Benton Flippen, Etta Baker, Joe Thompson, Martha Spencer and the Carolina Chocolate Drops.