January 02, 1998
Country, Old-Timey

Album Review

The fourth volume in Document's seven-part Fiddlin' John Carson chronology covers his recorded output from mid-March 1926 through early October 1927, beginning with the last side he ever cut as a solo act. A humorous ode to indolence, "Everybody Works But Father" would be revisited decades later by an elderly Groucho Marx in concert at Carnegie Hall. Carson's performance is anchored by his peculiar stage presence, a mysterious force that enabled him to make so many records without ever seeming even remotely leached out. Beginning with track two, everything else on this collection has him backed by his Virginia Reelers, including fiddler Earl Johnson and both T.M. Brewer and Moonshine Kate singing and playing banjos or guitars. Kate, who was actually 16-year-old Rosa Lee Carson, shows up throughout much of her father's discography. Keith Chandler's program notes point out that Fiddlin' John Carson, Gid Tanner, and Uncle Dave Macon worked for three competing labels (OKeh, Columbia, and Vocalion, respectively), much as Fats Waller, Putney Dandridge, and Bob Howard were engaged by Victor, Vocalion, and Decca to compete in the same small-group-swing-with-humorous-vocal market during the 1930s. Tanner's Skillet Lickers, Chandler points out, were closely modeled after Carson's Reelers, and truth be told both groups could fiddle and pick like fiends in human form. The group vocal on "Swanee River" is downright bizarre and feels like an old-timey premonition of the Holy Modal Rounders. This volume contains its share of chestnuts ("Old Joe Clark," "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," and a plucky "Long Way to Tipperary") in addition to a rousing "If You Can't Get the Stopper Out Break Off the Neck" and the nasty gospel send-up "It's a Shame to Whip Your Wife on Sunday."
arwulf arwulf, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Everybody Works But Father
  2. Fire on the Mountain
  3. Peter Went Fishing
  4. When We Meet on That Beautiful Shore
  5. Long Way to Tipperary
  6. Be Kind to a Man When He's Down
  7. In My Old Cabin Home
  8. Old and in the Way
  9. It's a Shame to Whip Your Wife on Sunday
  10. Cotton Eyed Joe
  11. Jesse James
  12. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
  13. Swanee River
  14. Old Joe Clark
  15. Gonna Swing on the Golden Gate
  16. Did He Ever Return?
  17. If You Can't Get the Stopper Out Break off the Neck
  18. Engineer on the Mogull
  19. Hell Bound for Alabama
  20. Turkey in the Hay
  21. The Smoke Goes Out the Chimney Just the Same
  22. Going Down to Cripple Creek
  23. Quit That Ticklin' Me
  24. It Won't Happen Again for a Hundred Years or More