What The Reviewers Say

169 BRAND NEW OLD TIME FIDDLE TUNES VOL. 3

Well maybe "brand new old time fiddle tunes" is an oxymoron, but this is a fine collection that demonstrates the vitality of tune making, at least in the Northwest and adjacent areas of Canada. Eighteen composers' works are included in this volume, and the pieces range from traditional Irish style to Franco-Celtic-Klezmer fusion. Clearly these contemporary musicians, with their varied backgrounds and musical persuasions, felt the need to expand the repertoire in both traditional and innovative directions, and to express their experiences and creativity. If you are an old-time musician who has felt a twinge of doubt playing tunes whose titles all seem to reflect an ambience and ways of bygone eras ("Leather Britches," "Stillhouse," "Mississippi Sawyer") how about "Hassle the Caller," "Midnight in the Van," or "Pampers on the Highway"? The time-worn forms of the older jigs, reels, hornpipes and the somewhat newer waltzes, polkas, foxtrots, and bluesy hoedowns are ever available to musicians talented at making their own tunes.

The soft-cover, large-format book is very much in the vein of tune books from the 19th and the present century, like Cole's, for example. Tune-books were more common in the British-influenced northern and urban areas, where many musicians could read music, and professional and popular music attitudes held sway. Many "book" tunes were the work of musically literate composers and were taken from the playing of noted musicians, though tune books also preserved and fed into folk styles. Here all the tunes are by specific composers (it would be interesting to know if any new but more anonymous tunes are making the rounds at today's dances and picking sessions, and might sometime be caught in print!) And like the older collections, this one leans heavily toward the Celtic jigs, reels, and hornpipes, though it is also very strong in the waltz department. Either due to this "book" tradition or for reasons of taste and geography, the collection is not as strong on tunes that are southern or old-time in style.

A discography lists where many of the tunes in the book can be heard on cassette. Not having any of these at hand, and armed only with my fiddle and rather unexceptional sight-reading abilities, I started with Pat Spaeth's reel "Coffee in the Garage" and worked through to Hank Bradley's strange hoedown, "Chase the Blues" ("Tempo de Barn-burner"). The tunes are given, as in most earlier collections, in skeletal form, without indications of bowing or ornamentation, leaving it to the musician to add embellishments, though double stops are necessarily included in some tunes. Chords are given throughout. It was enjoyable to move through the collection, coming across many delightful compositions, and also getting a feel for the styles of the various composers (photographs and brief blurbs on the composers at the beginning serve as a welcome introduction). Harry Deeley, an older fiddler from Manitoba, writes wonderful new waltzes, foxtrots, and polkas that sound as if they have been around for years. Pat Spaeth makes tunes that evoke older tunes, but with a contemporary twist in both title and music, as "The Rights of Woman", a hornpipe answer to the "Rights of Man," or the weird jig "Beer in the Chapel." Vivian Williams' tunes, like the "Windy Ridge Reel" or the "Ape Cave Blues" are catchy and shapely. David Kaetz (a reed musician, not a fiddler), of the group Otis Horse (also known as Eau de Source) is billed as "one of Canada's leading exponents of Franco-Celto-Klezmoid Swing" and writes tunes that are often comical -- "Foopsnose" is as funny as its title. Joe Pancerzewski, a retired railway engineer with several recordings and fiddle championships to his credit, weighs in with the lively "The Sleepwalker's Schottische," among several good tunes of various types. Bob Butler, who is a professional musician with classical training, offers several tunes in a Scandinavian style. Kevin Keinlein holds to a high standard of originality in his compositions.

Humor and irony flavor many of these tunes, though some are nostalgic and others lyrical... Which of the compositions here might become the "Fisher's Hornpipe" of tomorrow, becoming standards in the fiddler's tune-bag? Could one be Hank Bradley's "Chase the Squids," a reel with a funny middle part and really classy ending? Or could another be Harry Deeley's "Shadow Waltz," or David Kaetz's more modern "La Valse a Jean Paul"? Who knows, but in any event, this lively collection is a fine addition to the stock of tunes available to today's and tomorrow's fiddlers. (Old Time Herald)

*****

For the benefit of everyone who already has obtained Volumes 1 and 2 in this series of fiddle music collections by Voyager Publications, we want to begin by saying that this is "more of the same." In short, there is a wide variety of original compositions that have been compiled and edited by fiddler and composer, Vivian T. Williams.

In fact, in looking over Volume 3, it occurs to me just how fortunate the present day fiddlers and other musicians are to have outstanding and unique collections such as this one. As we have mentioned before in THE DEVIL'S BOX, there is no better investment for anyone who enjoys studying and "working up" new material than a book of original pieces such as this one. It also goes without saying that any time spent working with a tune book or collections is not only beneficial from the standpoint of adding new numbers to one's personal repertoire, but is also is a most enjoyable way to seek to improve our overall playing technique as well.

The section of Waltzes is, I must confess, my favorite part of this tune collection. Now, all of the tunes contained in this collection are very fine, but to me it is always a special treat to hear a fiddler play a new or relatively unknown waltz.

There is enough material contained here to keep most anyone busy practicing and learning new pieces for a long period of time. As we've mentioned in previous issues of THE DEVIL'S BOX, there are more "note-reading" fiddlers around today than ever before. This is due, in part, to the fact that more and more students of classical violin are discovering and entering the fascinating world of old-time fiddling. It goes without saying that as the entire fiddling community increases its numbers, there will be a greater need for outstanding tune collections such as this one. Volume 3 in the Brand New Old Time Fiddle Tune series and all of the other outstanding Voyager Publications are highly recommended. (Devil's Box)

*****

If you are a student of fiddle and constantly looking for new material in various styles, then this book, the third in a series, is a treasure trove. 169 new tunes grace these pages ranging from waltzes and reels to two-steps and rags. The wide scope of styles embraced here provides challenging tunes for fiddlers at any level of ability.

The layout is clean and easy to read.

Vivian Williams has been a longtime supporter of fiddle music in the Northwest and through Voyager Recordings has brought much good music to many people who have never ventured into that corner of the country. It would be no great surprise to me if one day some of these tunes sink into the folk process and crop up in fiddlers' repertories either from this book or from other fiddlers.

This collection is highly recommended to any picker looking for new tunes. (Bluegrass Unlimited)

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