Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

just an old fruit jar drinker whooping it up

Bought a cheap, wonderful Carter Family comp (8 bucks Canadian) in Victoria. Hadn't listened to them much in many years. Amazing. Mother Maybelle a genius, but had never realized that so is Sara, what a great singer. And A.P. is great too -- brilliant how he sits out for several songs in a row, and then comes in to contribute a great vocal. And, if he really did write those songs -- well, I'm curious to know more about that. What an amazing bunch of songs.

Sara and A.P. basically inventing -- or at least codifying -- the stoic dignity of much country and folk and bluegrass. Uncle Dave Macon, by contrast, coming out of minstrelsy, a wildman, a rocker, an over-the-top excessive entertainer. Carter Family: deep feeling through restraint; one of the main country and bluegrass and folk recipes, not found elsewhere, unless maybe British folk music pre-dating the Carters. Macon a proto-rockabilly-ist who sounds nothing like them, a subterranean spiritual ancestor playing like 60 and whooping and hollering.

Woody Guthrie brilliant for adopting the Carters’ style wholesale for his political songs. Deep feeling through restraint, strength and stoicism, urgency in the beat-pushing rhythm guitar in both the Carters & Guthrie, the urgent rhythm guitar belying the restrained vocal -- brilliant. Beautiful. Deeply moving.

Contrast the Carters' "Jimmy Brown the Newsboy" with Flatt & Scruggs's. F & S more polished, more serene, more removed-from-the-scene of poverty, but still gorgeous: Flatt's restrained, sweet, ineffably sad and sympathetic vocal; Scruggs’s lead guitar needlessly more elaborate than Mother Maybelle’s the only flaw on the record. Interesting that Flatt sings 2 quatrains each time through, while Sara Carter sings only one -- the single quatrain at a time giving a starker effect. Sara Carter's vocal hard as bedrock, the voice of deprivation itself. Strong, strong stuff. Similar approaches through different personalities.

Flatt's style comes out of Sara Carter. Interesting that F & S owe nothing to Macon (that I can hear), even though the banjo is central to both.

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