Music from the South (DVD)



from and Dennis Rozanski/Blues Rag:


This is a great addition to the Old-Time music library, with no less than 36 performances by a variety of rural country, Cajun and blues musicians who were captured on film in the 1960s and early 70s. Most of us were not aware that such precious footage was preserved—whata treat it is to see Clark Kessinger, Kilby Snow and the Coon Creek Girls, among others, in this 103-minute black & white DVD. These artists were still in their prime when 0they were captured on film.

Clark Kessinger—one of the finest old time fiddlers of all time—is seen here on 6 rousing tunes including SALLY ANN JOHNSON, BILLY IN THE LOW GROUND and POCA RIVER BLUES, accompanied well on banjo and guitar by Wayne Hauser and Gene Meade respectively—the lineup that backed Clark on the several fine LPs that he made in the 1960s. Lily May Ledford sings and plays banjo on a couple of fine numbers: EAST VIRGINIA BLUES and JOHNSON BOYS. And what Kilby Snow could do with his autoharp is fascinating and thoroughly musical—his 4 tracks here include SHADY GROVE, WILDWOOD FLOWER and an un- expected but fine version of Bill Monroe’s CLOSE BY. Other tracks on this DVD include a fife & drum band from Mississippi and 5 nice songs by the Cajun duo of Canray Fontenot and Bois Sec Ardoin.

The only problem with this DVD—and it is a glaring one—is the lack of any information on the musicians and when and where they were filmed: any who buy this item will most likely be expecting to find a booklet of notes inside, but there is nothing. Still, to be able to see and hear these wonderful musicians is a huge treat and an instructive one.

One particular B&W sequence stems from Alan Lomax’s after-hours experiment at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival when he simulated a juke joint, stocked its bar, and let Southern roots heroes whoop it up. That’s also where Clark Kessinger coats his old-timey fiddle in rosin dust from heatedly sawing “Chicken Reel.” But just a little while later we’re truly southbound in full 1979 color as ethnomusicologist David Evans’ camera delivers us onto the porch of Jessie Mae Hemphill’s shotgun shack. Then over to Memphis we go for a private audience with Mose Vinson, Piano Red, and growler Booker T. Low, who roll and tumble their blues pianos. Between “Turkey in the Straw” levitating under a buzzing swarm of fiddlers and those Young brothers’ polyrhythmic rituals squirming “Snake Dance” into life, these country hoedowns and hill-country shakedowns keep your living room (pad, pod, or phone too, via available direct download) constantly quaking.

The South’s more oddball instruments also raise quite the ruckus at the hands of their corresponding virtuosos. Meet the Jimi Hendrix of autoharp, Kilby Snow, who pulls off a daredevil feat with “Wildwood Flower.” Jimmy Driftwood twangs “Galloping Horse” on the one-string mouth bow with ingenious hillbilly fever. Yet quivering just as violently are the one-string diddley bows—a concoction of broom wire, snuff bottles, and a nail for a fingerpick—of Compton Jones, Napolean Strickland and Glen Roy Faulkner, Mississippi’s blue trinity. Here, the sights are just as surreal as the sounds.

DVD: $ 20.00


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