Archive for the ‘Lester McCumber’ Category

Lester McCumbers (a belated appreciation) August 15 1921 – January 26, 2015

July 30, 2015

The making of ... The Crooked Tune, An Old Time Fiddler in a Modern World

Lester fiddling 2Lester McCumbers was more than West Virginia’s last old world, old time fiddler. A man no doubt born into the remoteness of mountains and music and soaked it up in a regional style that over decades stood as a highly cherished remainder of an archaic sound that has recently caught the modern ear.

The New York Times did a wise man and the student piece about Lester McCumbers back in the late 1990s. And he continued to graciously host visitors from photographers to musicians committed to the old time sound and wanted to experience the exchange in person rather from a recording. Soon visitors no doubt realized there was more to Lester than the music or maybe there was more to the music.

Lester embodies the power of music, how music can more than compensate the lack of material things, how music infuses a kind of civility that draws people.  It…

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Krack and McCumber

December 18, 2014


The mountain-hollow art of old-time Appalachian fiddling, long withering under the pressures of youthful emigration and homogenized broadcast entertainment, is hanging on by a few well-bowed strings here in a backwoods master-apprentice program.

Toe-tapping in syncopation, his right wrist snapping off bow movements the way other lads ply a curve ball, 14-year-old Jake Krack followed his master, 78-year-old Lester McCumber, through the popping, tuneful intricacies of ”Ida Red.”

The lustrous, haunting scrape of the music drifted out toward the surrounding forest this evening, the sound wreathing the simple McCumber household as pungently as autumnal chimney smoke.

The two were jamming, by the boy’s terminology, or just fiddling, by that of his lean and craggy master. But the music — part of an ever-fading pre-Colonial Appalachian canon rarely written down and ”played by air,” as the teacher tells his pupil — was assuredly alive and well.

”Now that’s the original way of playing ‘Ida Red,’ the way the old man who lived down the road — Senate Cottrell was his name — played it,” the master instructed, suddenly looking back on his own young tutelage by a departed local legend.

In the gifted hands of Jake, the fiddling arts of Mr. McCumber — and of Mr. Cottrell, the fiddler French Carpenter and sundry masters before — now promises to outlive them all through a new generation. (more…)