Clayton McMichen

The Traditional Years

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From the moment the needle drops on the vinyl, the listener is in the presence of musical greatness. Fiddler Clayton McMichen takes off on a fast version of "McMichen's Reel," backed by the nimble guitar work of Riley Puckett. This album collects 15 such brilliant performances, including solo examples of old time contest-style fiddling, a "Fire on the Mountain" that verges on bluegrass, the Western swing feel of "Yum Yum Blues," McMichen crooning a Hawaiian-style vocal on "Honolulu Moon," and the out and out sentimentality of "Sweet Bunch of Daisies." One half expects W.C. Fields to come stumbling into the room half drunk during the latter number. So all in all, the hero, McMichen, is all over the place, as was his style, pushing the envelope in every setting with both his energy and superior musicianship. Other great players seemed to have flocked around him like moths to a flame, and tastes of various collaborations are provided as this anthology skips around. Fellow fiddler Bert Layne and even a squeaky clarinetist show up on "Sweet Bunch of Daisies"; hotshot picker Slim Bryant helps jazz up the "Wild Cat Rag"; and the entire Skillet Lickers show up for other tracks. McMichen's Melody Men harmonize deliciously for "My Carolina Home." The small Tennessee label behind this reissue likes to use rows and rows of tiny typeface, which produces eyestrain but not the identities of every musician involved in this material.

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