What The Reviewers Say

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Joe Pancerzewski, a champion fiddler, was born in Minnesota in 1905 and was raised in North Dakota, where he heard his first fiddling. He moved to Saskatchewan in 1921 where he learned to read music and developed a Canadian fiddling style. He played dances in Northern Washington beginning in the mid-1920's. When he retired from his job as a railroad engineer in 1970, Joe became active again as a fiddler, winning many contests. From what he says in this booklet, I gather that he traveled quite a bit in his lifetime. He kept up with the fiddlers from his original home area.

A great influence on Joe was his friend and fiddling mentor, Elvy Osborne, who was born in Illinois in 1882. In the 1930's, Joe copied Elvy's music notebook, the source for seven of the tunes in this book. The commentary on Joe's tune sources is very entertaining -- he has the gift of gab for sure. I enjoyed reading about Elvy Osborne's barbershop in Minot, North Dakota, an oasis for fiddling on the prairie. Another of Joe's tune sources was a Mr. Oard, who supplied three of the tunes here. A mysterious Mr. Berdan supplied the title tune of the set and Chet Hawley, an Oklahoman and professional gambler, played two of the tunes Joe picked up. Other sources are the Nelson Brothers and Jimmy Hendrickson of North Dakota, and Bill Smith of Saskatchewan. Some of Joe's anecdotes are downright charming too. He mentions that "Corn on the Cob" is a "an awful lot like Loggers Breakdown" as recorded by Don Messer, but also adds that a Texas friend of his had heard Eck Robertson and Eck's dad play it in Texas in the '20's.

Yes, the commentary is delightful as are the interesting photographs that grace some pages, but it is the music that is the reason people will want this book. These are "Northern-style" tunes, from the upper Midwest. They have lots of notes and interesting, challenging twists. Many tunes go up into second and third position and five are in flat keys, so this is not a book for beginning fiddlers. I think intermediate and advanced musicians will enjoy these tunes, though. They are dance tunes and Joe P. has been playing dances for 60 years, so we know they work. For "ear" musicians, seven of these tunes can be heard played by Joe on three different Voyager albums. The folks at Voyager have again done a commendable job in adding to their catalogue of regional fiddling which appears on records, tapes and in book form. (Old Time Herald)

*****

As you can see from the above list of titles, this is a very select group of tunes. In fact, in just sitting down to try to play through at least some of these numbers, I wound up spending about 30 minutes just going over and over the first selection in the book, A.G.A. Quadrille. Not only is this a fairly difficult tune to play, it is a very beautiful number to hear. It has a very unique sound and melody line which definitely "catches" your ear the first time around.

These comments also apply to all the other selections, so I will not attempt to name a particular favorite.

A number of years ago, an old fiddling friend of mine used to refer to pieces like these as "meaty" tunes. This, of course, meant that they had a lot of musical substance that immediately attracted you to them. Currently, with such a wide variety of fiddle music books being made available to us, it is often difficult to decide (especially if you are on a limited budget) just exactly which ones to add to your personal collection.

However, and let me stress this point, if you are a serious collector of the real old-time fiddle music, this is one book that you cannot afford to pass up. Not only is this an outstanding collection from the standpoint of musical quality alone, it is also a rare opportunity to learn and enjoy a superb group of tunes from what might accurately be described as the golden era (or good old days) of the fiddler's art.

As you may have already guessed from the foregoing comments, Joe Pancerzewski is very definitely one of my favorite old-time artists. His original compositions and personal arrangements/adaptations are always a pleasure to hear or play. My introduction to his unique style and repertoire first came about when I obtained his fine Voyager LP "The Fiddling Engineer". Since that time it has been my great pleasure to enjoy his other recordings on the Voyager label, and also the superb musical transcriptions of quite a few of his tunes in the "Brand New Old Time Fiddle Books".

In my opinion, it would seem that the one thing in particular you're sure to notice when you listen to or play any of the numbers compiled by this talented gentleman is the beautiful melodic flow of each individual note sequence. In fact, it can truthfully be said that Mr. Pancerzewski obviously has a "special affection" for fiddle music that is not just technically challenging, but is also always very pleasing to the ear of the listener as well. This, of course, definitely applies to all the superb tunes contained in this collection. As mentioned already, they are all classic examples of the true old-time fiddling style.

Now, it should be mentioned, that in addition to the musical transcriptions in this book, there is a very informative text. This textual material, which is related by Mr. Pancerzewski, gives the reader a fascinating account of how he heard and learned these tunes from various players many years ago. There are also several rare photographs from the same period of time.

Voyager Publications is to be commended for making it possible for us to enjoy (as well as learn from) this rare collection. It goes without saying that it is very definitely recommended. (The Devil's Box)

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