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What the Reviewers Say

VRCD363 GARY LEE MOORE: UNCLE PIG

Gary Lee Moore, a 4th generation Oklahoma fiddler and multi-instrumentalist living in Seattle, has been playing fiddle for 45 years. Uncle Pig is his terrific first recording, one which might have gone unmade if it hadn't been for the gentle but constant prodding of his musical friends.

I watched Gary Lee in a jam circle at Wintergrass this year, and I remember thinking, "wow, there's the real stuff." Sitting there in his hat and overalls, slapping time on his Gibson, barking at the fiddler across the circle to "git it, boy!" he was strangely out of place among the mob, in the best possible way. He was authentic. That was something that stuck with me.

The buzz about this record is as one might expect when a guy who's been loved and respected for years finally puts some playing down on tape. Gary Lee's self-written liner notes reveal his childhood inspirations and tune sources. His casual, familiar references to great old-time fiddlers like Orville Burns are a delight, as are the tunes with names like "49 Cats in a Rain barrel" and "Whoa Mule, Can't Get the Damn Saddle On!" it quickly becomes obvious that Moore specializes in what he calls the "different stuff." He's spent a lifetime gathering songs, playing the greats all over the country, and it's all condensed here in a sweet little hour-long listen. (Jim Smith, Dusty Strings Acoustic Music Store, Seattle, NorthwestAMP Magazine)

*****

While skulking around the woods and between the motorhomes at the Darrington Bluegrass Festival, I was drawn toward the sound of some people playing better than the "name" acts on stage and having so much fun I wondered shy no one had gotten the law after 'em. I found myself standing behind Gary Lee Moore, who was barking orders and encouragement out from under one side of his bushy mustache to a couple of harried-looking young fiddlers, while slipping saucy asides from under the other to jam pay Pete Martin. I'd never seen Pete laugh so hard. I sure couldn't tear myself away: Gary Lee Moore is part Uncle Dave Macon, part Bill Monroe, and part shy genius who, by his own admission, had to be dragged into the studio by Martin and Phil Williams to "record a keepsake album." Friends, this is no mere keepsake. This is a smash, a must-own, a nominee for record of the year. For starters, Moore plays with the same glee in the studio that he does in jams, and pushes accompanist Martin and encourages him to push back. Some judicious overdubbing of tenor guitar and tenor banjo gives the record the full string band sound, so this is not some "documentary", this is a foot-to-the-floor pickin' album. The next thrill is with the tunes themselves. Moore has a reputation among the fiddle crowd as the keeper of the weird and forgotten, old specials that he learned as a boy in Oklahoma from relatives and competitive fiddlers and early heroes Clark Kessinger and Orville Burns. and what great tunes! "49 Cats in a Rain Barrel"! "Rat Cheeze"! "Kill 'Em"! Moore plays them with all the sass and gusto their titles suggest. Other titles are more familiar, but Moore gives them all his own twists. In his "aw, shucks" liner notes Moore always calls the originals better, and excuses his including the canonical ("Bill Cheatum", "Soppin' the Gravy") with "Hell, it's just a good old tune" . . . . but he's too modest. These are some of the best versions out there. Get this CD today! (Tom Peterson, Victory Review)

*****

Oklahoma turned Seattle fiddler Moore presents a collection of 27 favorite tunes that range from the familiar ("Bill Cheatum," "Hell Among the Yearlings") to the not-quite-so-well-known ("49 Cats in a Rain Barrel," "Kill 'Em). Moore's style is lively, fluid and energetic, and occasionally ventures into the key of F, likely to make him an instant favorite of guitar players everywhere. (Sing Out!)

*****

Gary Lee Moore is not the kind of fiddle man you're apt to find hanging out with 5-string banjo players. He lives in Seattle, Washington and plays a complex, chord-rich style sometimes called Texas contest fiddling. If you happen to visit the National Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho you will often hear folks refer to this styles as simply "old-time fiddling," though this description might be a stretch for most, considering how different southern hoedown fiddling is to Garry's jazzy, laid-back style. Just glance at the tune list, though, and indeed you'll see a few familiar tunes you'd be likely to hear in a contest or around the campgrounds at a fiddlers convention in the Southeast.

As it turns out, the great Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson was a major fan of West Virginian, Clark Kessinger, and spent hours spinning the old Kessinger Brothers 78s, learning tune after tune, adding his own phrasing and syncopation. Many of the tunes of Uncle Pig are, in fact, from Kessinger, such as "Everybody to the Puncheon," "Fourteen Days in Georgia," and "Hell Amongst the Yearlings." Some of the pieces re the great American standards, such as "Bill Cheatum," "Old Grey Mare," "Forked Deer," and "Shortenin' Bread," the last being Gary's own wondrous spin on the Doc Roberts classic. Having spent years hearing older players like Thomasson, Gary's touch on the fiddle is a bit sweeter than many of the up-and-coming contest style fiddlers. He plays with the precision the style requires, but he is so lyrical with his variations that even a die-hard hoedown fiddle fan would find it hard to keep from smiling at the ease in which he glides from one idea to the next. As is customary for this kind of a jam session, Gary is joined by a couple of guitars - Pete Martin and Rich Levine, a tenor guitar by Lee Roy Jackson, and not frequently heard in this setting, a tenor banjo, played by Chester Butterworth. All the back up players are solid and equally unobtrusive, moving through the chord figures smoothly but with plenty of drive. Fortunately for us, Voyager Records has captured and expertly preserved Gary Lee Moore's music - a style of fiddling that is seldom recorded. If you want to hear some fiddling that evolved directly from the likes of Eck Robertson, Red Steely and other old-time Texas greats, check this one out. (Adam Tanner, The Old-Time Herald)

*****

Some nice fiddle work by this gentleman who plays mostly in a Texas contest style. He credits an impressive list of sources for the 20 tunes here, including Clark Kessinger, Herman Johnson, Dick Barrett, Louis Franklin and Orville Burns. Good tunes, good playing (with Texas "Sock Guitar" backing). (County Sales Newsletter)

*****

For those of you who have shied from old time fiddling from America's West, this album will get you hooked. A great fiddler and favorite curmudgeon of Northwest fiddling, Gary Lee Moore has finally committed some of his repertoire to a CD. For those who already are in love with this style, Uncle Pig is a must-have. Hey, I'm not kidding. Get that check in the mail! This is solid fiddle playing with an old time Texas flavor, from a guy that has spent much of his life traveling the country and learning from some of the great fiddle players that have come before - guys like Orville Burns, Louis Franklin, and Clark Kessinger.

Not the sometimes over-technical contest stuff, this one's got the beauty of wasabi, and you can take that to a Japanese dictionary! You can almost smell the sipping whiskey as the boys rip through a bushel of breakdowns, rags and waltzes. Just fiddle here, no distracting mandolin or guitar solos, and Moore obviously puts feeling into every note. There's lots of great rare numbers and the pieces you may have heard before are recast in the vision of Moore's own deep understanding of fiddling.

All the cuts are winners, including "Honey Boy," "Kill 'Em," "Redskin Rag," an absolute killer version of "Rat Cheese" (a.k.a. "Pike's Peak"), "Whoa Mule Can't Get the Damn Saddle On," and twenty-two others.

Peter Martin, and Rich Levine do most of the back up work on guitars, and they are right on the money, highlighting Moore's hard driving, syncopated, slidey fiddle. A couple of Moore's other buddies also chime in, but I'll leave the accompanying notes to describe them. These notes can give insight into the fertile imagination of Gary Lee. It's been a long wait, and the results are well worth it. (Stacy Phillips - Fiddler Magazine)

*****

What can I say about Gary Lee Moore? This is Texas-style fiddling with a soul. Much contemporary Texas-style stuff played in contests these days sounds to me like something a robot might play. Not so with Moore. I am thrilled to be able to share transcriptions of Moore's playing here on DrFiddle.com.

Originally from Oklahoma, Moore now resides in Washington. His list of championship wins is impressive:

Adult National Champion (Weiser, ID)
Senior National Champion (Weiser, ID)
North Cascades Senior Champion (Winthrop, WA)
North Cascades Open Champion (Winthrop, WA)
Northwest Regional Senior Champion (Spokane, WA)
Washington State Open Champion (Wenatchee, WA)
His philosophy about fiddling can best be expressed in his own words:

I’ve attended 38 contests here and seen fiddling change. I miss the old masters because each fiddle player sounded unique. Technical perfection has taken over from fiddling with personal style and soul. I like good fiddle playing, and have played many styles in 50 years. I appreciate creativity and always want to hear the skeleton of the tune. If you think your idea for a lick is cool, play it. I want to hear you play your style with confidence. Don’t just follow the crowd, play something that isn’t the technically perfect hit parade tune. Play it proud, play it well.

(Quote originally published on the website of the Weiser, ID National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest and Festival website )

A veritable treasure trove of Moore's fiddling can be found at the Fiddle Hangout (files are of somewhat low quality and not all files are of Moore). I strongly encourage you to purchase Moore's CD Uncle Pig.

This collection is complete for the moment, unless and until further recordings is this superlative fiddler become available. I have transcribed every recording of Moore that I could find. If you know of any that I have not transcribed, please contact me.

Dr. Fiddle's Old Time Fiddle Tune Transcriptions
Collected and Transcribed by Austin Rogers, PhD
http://drfiddle.com/browse_collection.php?collection_id=10

*****

Reviews from the CD Baby Web Site:

Nice double stops and technique.
Rose of Sharon and 14 days, and the rest are played legit.
[4 stars]
www.rolandbowman

Fiendishly good
I don't rightly know much about fiddlin', but I know good stuff when I hear it, and this here is the Real Deal. For Pete's sake, buy it.
[5 stars]
Michelle Swanson

Hey, this is great fiddling !!
I am a fan of traditional fiddle music and am just writing to say that I really dig this CD!! This five-star quality CD has fiddle standards as well as seldom heard tunes for an interesting mix and it is one of my new favorites!!
[5 stars]
Sherry

Great Fiddlin' - Great Tunes ! ! !
I recently purchased this CD and I am really enjoying it. From Uncle Pig to the end it still holds my attention all the way through. This is some really great fiddlin' on some great tunes.
[5 stars]
Bob Nation

I LOVE this CD! Gary Lee Moore's fiddling is a mixture of all the best things that have happened to fiddling over the years! He has that old time flavor mixed with the fancy fiddling of contest players. Just smooth, melodic, abstract playing! Does that make sense?! Listen and you will like!!!
[5 stars]
Porky

*****

Gary Lee is a multi- instrumentalist, champion fiddler who plays the "different stuff" in his own style. A 4th generation Oklahoma fiddle player, he has been fiddling for 45 years. He also plays tenor guitar, guitar, and tenor banjo. He is backed up on this CD by Pete Martin and Rich Levine on guitars. Chester Butterworth on tenor banjo, and LeeRoy Jackson on the tenor guitar. This CD contains breakdowns, waltzes, and rags. No singin'', just good fiddlin''.
(efolkmusic.org)

*****

Fourth generation Oklahoma fiddler Gary Lee Moore began playing as a boy and is a consistent contest winner. Among the 300+ contestants from nearly 40 states at the National Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho, Gary Lee is a regular among the adult division winners. I began my assessment of Gary Lee Moore's "Uncle Pig" album by listening to 4 different versions of "Soppin' the Gravy" (not only Gary Lee's but also Vernon Solomon's, 5-time national champ Herman Johnson's, and John Francis'). Each has a unique rendition with their own vitality, drive and innovation. Johnson's smoothness is hard to beat, Solomon's tempo is more high-energy, and Francis' contest version is clean and absorbing. Gary Lee Moore's personal expression is right in there too with excellent tone, pitch and rhythm. Throughout this album, Gary Lee's precise long-bow technique is flawless, smooth and pleasing. He has a style with tonal beauty, and his melodic accuracy is combined with creativity and rhythmic steadiness. It's this very consistency that helps a champion fiddler like Gary Lee take home his fair share of prize money and trophies.

In Texas and Oklahoma, fiddle music is heard at contests, dances and other occasions where townsfolk just get together to entertain one another. I've always enjoyed the ornate and decorative nature of Texas fiddling, with the fiddler putting plenty of turns into the tunes, while also playing the same lines in a variety of ways. Gary Lee's imagination introduces us to new, concise and tasteful themes, chords and melodic variations in his more familiar tunes like "Hell Among the Yearlin's." Of particular interest are the many less familiar tunes (like "49 Cats in a Rain Barrel" or "Kill ‘Em") among the 27 tracks.

Gary Lee's nice set offers not only hoedowns, but also some beautifully-rendered waltzes ("Rose of Sharon" and "Too Old to Dream") and rags (like "Steeley's Rag," "Redskin Rag," and "Birdy" which he calls a parlor tune meaning it wasn't fit for much else). I would've enjoyed hearing some of Gary Lee's trick fiddling too, but then again in a contest just a little plucking or similar antics will get a contestant disqualified. And perhaps even a hornpipe, schottische or march on "Uncle Pig" might've given us even more variety in the hour-long set.

Gary Lee's real forte is the hoedown. Besides tunes learned his own father ("Bill Cheatum"), grandfather ("The Little Forked Deer"), and great grandfather ("Birdy"), he credits some fantastic fiddlers for his inspiration, among them Clark Kessinger, Orville Burns, Benny Thomasson, Howdy Forrester, Major Franklin, Louis [sic] Franklin, Norman Soloman, and Dick Barrett. All very well-known among the ranks of famous and smooth Texas fiddlers. Major Franklin competed against the likes of Eck Robertson, Oscar Harper, Red Steeley (of the Red Headed Fiddlers), and Ervin Solomon. Lewis Franklin, Major's nephew, began playing about age 8 when his grandfather started teaching him tunes. As a youngster, Norman Solomon started going to contests to accompany his father, Ervin, and then began entering the junior divisions.

Like many fiddlers, Gary Lee Moore is also a skilled guitarist and tenor banjo-player. On this album, he is backed up by Pete Martin and Rich Levine (guitars), LeeRoy Jackson (tenor guitar), and Chester Butterworth (tenor banjo). These guys are expert Texas fiddle accompanists, and their "sock" guitar style offers notes and chords that closely follow the tunes, always complementing and not competing with the fiddle. For a fuller sound, Gary Lee could've added piano and/or bass to a few tracks. But it's very clear that these musicians know each other well and have jammed and played together considerably. They have fun adding some coloring of their own to an old tune like "Bill Cheatum." The CD also captures a few laughs along the way, such as after a favorite Clark Kessinger tune called "Rat Cheeze." As Gary says in his self-penned liner notes, "Wish someone would've had a camera the day these knotheads showed up. Those 3 in one place, scared all the bugs from the garden."

Gary Lee Moore is a formidable fiddler, and it's truly a pleasure to hear a full set of his tunes with his creative variations. Any fan of solid Texas fiddling will really enjoy these melodies, along with their tone coloring, phrasing, bowing and rhythmic variations. One of these days, I'd like to hear Gary Lee Moore in the context of a full dance band like Herman Johnson's Oklahoma Ragtimers, Harmony Boys, or Melodiers.
(Joe Ross, California Bluegrass Association)

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