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First in a series of Southern Marvels, recordings of southern music that combine both singularity and beauty: Omer Forster’s “Flowery Girls.”
In old time music, there are a number of tunes that stand alone; they have a haunting, almost mystical quality that transports the listener. I used to run down to the local record store and buy all the Davis Unlimited records as soon as they were released. I remember getting the Omer Forster record, not knowing who he was, or even what he sounded like, but it looked promising. When Flowery Girls played on side one, cut one, I was floored by the beauty of the tune. It sounded made-up, maybe not in the “tradition” but it didn’t matter. The unique finger picking (two finger) gives it a great, syncopated feel. It is a lyrical masterpiece. Give it a listen: (from Michael Donahue)
FLOWERY GIRLS – Omer Forster, banjo
Featuring Houston Daniel and The Highland Rim Boy
Spring Fed Records SFR-DU-33037. Available here.
Review of Omer Forster’s “Flowery Girls” by Charles Wolfe
“There’s not many old-time musicians left up here in Humphries County,” said Houston Daniel during a break in this session. “Those of us that do still play it all know each other and keep in touch.” Humphries County, lying due west of Nashville in an arm of the Tennessee River, was once the stomping ground of musicians like Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith and Floyd Ethridge; these and other lesser-known musicians have left their mark in the music of the region though, and a small but devoted band of local musicians have kept the region’s distinctive styles and tunes alive. Two of the finest of these musicians are banjoist Omer Forester (from McEwen) and fiddler Houston Daniel (from Waverly).
76 year old Omer Forster has, through the years, quietly developed one of the most distinctive styles and repertoires of any old-time banjo player in the country. All his life Omer has played in an archaic two-finger style (thumb and index finger) which he can’t remember learning from anyone; “it’s always been natural with me.” Nor has he during his life been aware that his style was all that unusual; apparently his friends and neighbors in rural Humphries County accepted the style without much comment. But distinctive it is: soft, graceful, complex, different both from the classic three-finger vaudeville styles of the other middle Tennessee artists like Uncle Dave Macon, and different from the claw-hammer style of the eastern mountains. Rick Good of the Hotmud Family has called Omer’s banjo playing “mystic,” and Harper van Hoy, the founder of Fiddlers’ Grove, has called Omer “the best old-time banjo player in the country.” (more…)