There are musicians or bands whose greatness might be measured by the sheer output of releases; such recording artists might be able to fill a small study with their output, and listeners might argue into the night about what recording is the best of the bunch. Then there are acts such as this one, who may have made only one record, but what a reception it got over the years. The strange and mysterious Weems String Band created only one album for Columbia during the label's late-'20s cycle of hillbilly string band recording, but there are many devotees of this music that consider this to be one of the high points in the history of this genre. The great question when considering this group is how exactly they developed their extremely sophisticated playing techniques. Brothers Dick and Frank Weems, for example, play their fiddles in positions way up the neck that rural old-time fiddlers hardly ever bothered to reach for. How did the Weems brothers, who came from the backwoods of Perry County, TN, an area more known for stills than Stokowksi, learn such classical techniques? Go figure, or rather, go fiddle. Making things even more confusing is the fact that the brothers used these techniques to create typically raunchy, old-time sounding string band music. Another unusual element of the band is the use of the cello, played by Jesse Weems. There is very little use made of this instrument in either old-time string band music, bluegrass, or country music. The brothers combine these instruments to create a marvelous blend that is really very different than any other string band sound, thus the fanatic following which praises among many other attributes the Weems' complicated and sometimes startling variations on their basic themes, sometimes considered more in the style of Indian classical music than the normally more simple string band playing. The band was totally a family enterprise. Banjo player Alvin Condor had married one of the Weems sisters. The Weems clan made the cull for a series of old-time string band collectors' cards illustrated by famous cartoonist Robert Crumb, and in this picture two additional family members are shown on guitar and banjo. These players are not featured on the recordings, however. The group's music was re-released on the County anthology Echoes of the Ozarks.
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