Fiddlin' John Carson

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1924-1925)

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Volume two in Document's seven-part history of Fiddlin' John Carson examines 22 Okeh recordings made in Atlanta and New York between March 1924 and June 1925. Sound quality varies from clear to crusty. On tracks 1, 2, 9, and 10 he is joined by his Virginia Reelers, an indeterminate set of individuals who may have included banjoist Land Norris. The guitarist on the final track ("Sally Ann") has been identified as the fiddler's daughter Rosa Lee Carson. Part of the fun is in the tune selection, as old-timey favorites like "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'," "Turkey in the Straw," "Sugar in the Gourd," "Boil Dem Cabbage Down," and "Alabama Gal (Won't You Come Home Tonight?)" -- a geographically specific "Buffalo Gals" -- alternate with several locomotive-themed songs, instances of cynical humor ("I'm Glad My Wife's in Europe"), and social commentary ("The Death of Floyd Collins"). Early folk and blues lovers may want to compare Carson's version of "Charming Betsy" with that of singing railroad hobo Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas. As for "Run Nigger Run," this lively tune was very popular among Georgia fiddlers and was also recorded by Earl Johnson's Clodhoppers and Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers. What is generally not observed is the fact that "Run Nigger Run" originated among African-American slaves as a tribute to those who escaped captivity and struggled to elude patrols sent out specifically to hunt them down. Hearing it sung by a Southern white man places everything in a different context and may serve as a healthy exercise in understanding why certain words have vastly different connotations depending upon who uses them and why.

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