The Skillet Lickers

Skillet Lickers, Vol. 1: 1926-1927

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Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers were the dominant Georgia fiddle band of the late 1920s and early '30s. Most of their recordings have been chronologically reissued by Document, with volume one offering a definitive dose of this punchy little group's bold approach to musical entertainment. Tanner's falsetto voice is as easy to distinguish as is guitarist Riley Puckett's simple, straightforward delivery, which enabled him to develop a separate career as a pop vocalist. Most of the Lickers' trademarks are in evidence here, from hillbilly standards like "Alabama Jubilee," "Bully of the Town," "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain," "Turkey in the Straw," "Old Joe Clark," and "Dixie" to signature specialties such as "Pass Around the Bottle and We'll All Take a Drink" and "You Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog Aroun'."

The Lickers shared repertoire and attitude with Earl Johnson's Clodhoppers, and both bands specialized in material which was thickly larded with ethnic stereotyping. If "Shortening Bread" hints at the racial caricatures so prevalent throughout the Deep South at that time, and "Watermelon on the Vine" invokes the archetypal thieving "darky", no recording by this group presses more buttons than "Run Nigger Run," a lively breakdown based upon a song that originated among slaves as a salute to those who had escaped from captivity and were struggling to elude paid patrollers who collected bounties for catching errant slaves and returning them to the plantation. Despite the documented African-American origin of the song, it takes on discomforting connotations when performed by a team of hard-drinking Southern white men in the '20s.

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