Various Artists

Raw Fiddle

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Raw Fiddle is the type of compilation a collector like Harry Smith would've gotten excited about. Primarily consisting of old-time fiddle recordings from the '20s and '30s, this two-disc set exceeds in both scope and scale. Of course, anyone worth his or her crossbow will know that Fiddlin' John Carson's version of "Arkansas Traveler" from 1924 was the first recording of a string band in the United States. There are old minstrel tunes ("Turkey Buzzard Blues"), reels ("Rocky Road to Dublin"), and blues ("C.C. Rider"). But that's just for starters. After lots of fine American tunes on the first disc (The Domestic Front), Raw Fiddle turns to the international scene (The International Intrigue). (It should be noted that although international in flavor, many of these pieces were recorded in the United States.) For many listeners, this will be an introduction and an eye opener. Yes, it's still raw fiddle, but the styles in Athens, Greece, are quite a bit different than what one might find, say, in Athens, GA. The comparison is interesting, though, because many of these pieces -- "Aidinikos Horos" by Laiki Orchestra and "Ipirotiko Mirologoi" by Alexis Zoumbas -- were also recorded during the '20s and '30s. A couple of these pieces, incredibly, date back to 1914-1916 in Stockholm. Lars Johan Sundell plays solo on "Polska from Ydre County"/"Whistler's Polska from Ydre County," and he's joined by August Fredin on "Brandy Polska from Gotland"/"Old Man's Dance." Together, both discs of Raw Fiddle make for a fascinating comparative study of styles and instrument combinations. The sound quality, while occasionally marred due to the less than perfect originals, is very good. Fiddlers, fiddle fans, and old-time music fans in general will cherish this collection.

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