Fiddlin' Doc Roberts

Fiddlin' Doc Roberts, Vol. 3

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The third and final volume in Document's Fiddlin' Doc Roberts chronology presents 22 recordings made between mid-January 1930 and late August 1934. These begin with the last of his one-on-one duets with guitarist Asa Martin and lead through various combinations involving Martin and/or guitarists James Roberts (Doc's teenaged son) and Arthur Rose. The addition of young James brought about a new billing as the Fiddlin' Doc Roberts Trio. James had a knack for singing (his earliest recorded vocals were made when he was only 13 years old) and in time, quite a number of vocal duets were released under the name of Martin & Roberts. Both individuals would continue to perform professionally long after Doc had ceased recording. The sole example of their singing included here is "Ninety-Nine Years," a wholesome essay that prefigures the cloying sentimentality and honeyed harmonies of their fellow Kentuckians the Blue Sky Boys, who enjoyed popularity and success using this approach as Victor Bluebird recording artists for more than fifteen years beginning in 1936. The lovely "Wednesday Night Waltz" was patterned after the popular recording by the Leake County Revelers, and the vocalist on "Cumberland Gap" is believed to have been Arthur Rose.

During this period Doc, who drew inspiration from African-American musicians that he knew and worked with in east central Kentucky, chose to record a number of blues tunes which generally run a bit deeper than barn dance standards like "Turkey in the Straw" and "Over the Waves." For this reason volume three could well be the best installment of the series, as "Cumberland Blues," "Carroll County Blues," "Coal Tipple Blues," and "The Drunken Man's Dream" contrast nicely with reels and 2-steps more suitable for square dancing. Early jazz lovers will recognize the "Cumberland Blues" as Fred Meinken's hit of 1921, the "Wabash Blues." "‘Way Down South" was otherwise known as "Whistling Rufus" and "Have You Ever Seen the Devil, Uncle Joe" has a lengthy history as both "Miss McLeod's Reel" and "Hop High Ladies." It was revisited in 1963 by Charlie Poole/Doc Roberts disciple Peter Stampfel in duo with Steve Weber on their first album as the Holy Modal Rounders. In addition to his widely admired fiddling, Doc was pretty handy with a mandolin, as evidenced by the "Honeymoon Stomp" and "Pickin' and Playin'," on which James demonstrates his rapidly developing facility as a guitarist. Aside from a few home recordings made some 35 years later, the Fiddlin' Doc Roberts discography ends with the last of the Trio's recordings, neatly tucked into the closing minutes of this collection.