What The Reviewers Say

VRCS 340 JIM HERD: OLD TIME OZARK FIDDLING

Jim Herd was born in Missouri in 1919. He moved to the West Coast in 1941 and currently resides in Sunnyside, Washington. He is a familiar and successful competitor and frequent judge at fiddle contests in the area. Fiddling is truly a way of life for the Herd family; fiddling has been a part of the legacy as far back as Jim's great grandfather who was born in 1789. Jim says, "I still play some of the tunes that have been handed down from father to son, now to the fourth generation. I play strictly by ear. I have played since I can remember. I don't really know when I started. It's been part of my life all along." It's no wonder that Jim Herd's fiddling has the flavor and drive of old-time dance music. Jim indicates that "I play a lot of the old time square dance tunes they played back when my grandfather was a young man. My mother's people came from Ireland, father's people from England, and they were all from Tennessee originally, when they come into Missouri. They danced a lot of square dance there. You'd play maybe all night, and they'd dance a very few waltzes, or two-steps or something like that. It was strictly breakdown tunes and fast dancing."

If you like old-time fiddling, then you can skip to the end of this review to find the ordering instructions and place an order for this cassette. It's as simple as that! Jim Herd has a wealth of musical knowledge and talent. This release is a satisfying tribute to this outstanding craftsman. Complementing Jim's fine fiddling are some outstanding backup musicians. Laura Smith turns in a fine job on the banjo, while Vivian Williams handles the rhythm guitar chords in fine fashion and Phil Williams provides strong bass accompaniment.

Jim has selected 25 of his best tunes for this fine set. Among these tunes are some fine old favorites as well as many that have been played for generations in the Herd family.

Highly Recommended. (Devil's Box)

*****

Certainly old time fiddling. It's good material. These items are known as dance tunes, as played by southerners years ago. They have moved out to the west coast and keep that tradition alive. (Disc Collector)

*****

Jim Herd was 72 when "Old Time Ozark Fiddling" was recorded in 1991. The grandson of a Union soldier who carried his fiddle throughout the war, Herd is representative of the tradition of family fiddling with tunes being handed down from one generation to the next.

Herd plays with enthusiasm and terrific rhythm. His style, as quoted in the liner notes, can best be described as "Just the way my dad and grandfather used to play." This is an infectious recording, made more delightful by the occasional crickets chirping in the background (it was recorded at a festival campground), giving it that genuine old-time sound. (Sing Out)

*****

This tape features Jim's fine Midwestern hoedown fiddling and excellent waltzes. Jim tears up the breakdowns, putting odd spins on some standards and pulling off a few rare pieces. But I feel he really excels on the 5 waltzes. Most sound familiar - for a while, then bango, he hits with a twist. And his "Katy Hill" can't be beat! (Victory Review)

*****

Jim's bowing and phrasing remind me a little bit of one of my favorite Missouri fiddlers, Vesta Johnson, especially his glissandi, or slides using his little (or third) finger. Jim's bowing is very interesting as well. He neatly mixes long bow patterns with short chops and falls occasionally into shuffles, but is never predictable, always refreshing. I especially love the way he sneaks in his slurs. And for those who love crooked tunes, extra beats, or tunes that appear to be crooked, boy are you gonna love this one! "Katy Hill" in Herd's hands is a masterpiece of timing and phrasing. "Forked Deer," where does that phrase end? As well as his Ozark origins, I suspect a bit of Mississippi influence as well. "Monkey in the Dog Cart" is a well-known Leake County Revellers showpiece and "Tennessee Grey Eagle" sounds surprisingly like Enos Canoy's "Raccoon and the Possum." Well, the music did travel. Jim's playing also hearkens back to other Missouri players of old, such as the energetic playing of Steve and His Hotshots. In fact, Jim's fiddling, both on his breakdowns and his waltzes, can easily be imagined coming from an old shellac disk, perhaps on the OKeh or Vocalion label. Maybe that's what I enjoy most about him. He makes me feel like I've discovered a rare 78 rpm record when I listen to him. He is unaffected by modern trends in fiddling, using his idiosyncratic bowing and phrasing, "just like the old days." This will get a lot of play around my homestead and I am extra fortunate to be able to catch him in person on occasion, as Jim still plays at festivals and fiddling shows in Washington state. If you like the old style of playing, I hope you get a chance to see Jim Herd too, or at least pick up his recording. (Old Time Herald)

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