For someone who came of age in the 1970s, one of the things I miss most on the contemporary scene is the old style fiddle albums that were so prevalent in the ’60s and ’70s. The top bowmen of the day seemed to have a new one out every year or so, and you knew what to expect from a new record with Kenny Baker, Joe Greene, Tommy Jackson, or Curly Ray Cline on the cover.
We still see them from time to time these days, but they more often seem to follow the Bill Monroe instrumental model, with solos equally shared among the instruments rather than the fiddle, fiddle, fiddle feel of the great recordings of my youth. We still get one from Tim Smith every few years, and Aubrey Haynie’s The Bluegrass Fiddle Album from 2003 was a gem, but there just aren’t enough to satisfy those of us who love them deeply. Old timers know exactly what I mean.
So hats off to Tom Mindte with Patuxent Records and Corrina Rose Logston for the release of Bluegrass Fiddler, her first instrumental solo project. It’s chock full of hornpipes and reels, rags and waltzes, all played with the passion and fluidity that you’d expect from an album with this name.
I’ve been acquainted with this young lady since she was in high school, and I know that her fascination with the bluegrass and country music from the old school is real and profound. Together with her husband, Jeremy Stephens, who plays guitar on this record, Corrina chases the authentic sound of the early days with their band, High Fidelity.
On Bluegrass Fiddler, she has drawn on some jewels from the deep American fiddle tradition, without relying on the overplayed standards that we hear at many of the competitions. She even brings forward a couple of strong new pieces of her own, Sandridge, an easy-going tune in G, and Honeycat Hornpipe, a stately number in E, either of which would have been right at home on a Baker LP from the ’70s.
The album starts with Laughing Boy, with strong support from Kurt Stephenson on banjo and David McLaughlin on mandolin, followed by Timmie Martin’s JC’s Hornpipe, another elegant tune in more of a midwestern style. There’s also a tasty version of Soppin’ The Gravy which rips along at a brisk pace with nice mandolin from Casey Campbell. Stephenson’s banjo really sparkles on this one, as does Logston’s fiery fiddle.
She also shows off her vocal chops on a pair of tracks, Ernest Tubb’s I Don’t Blame You and the Carter Family’s Foggy Mountain Top, both getting a retro treatment befitting a vintage recreationist like Miss Corrina. Fine vocal harmonies are provided by Stephens and Stephenson.
The obligatory waltz section is nicely filled by Junior Jump Waltz from old time fiddler D.W.F. Maloy, and Whispering Hope which closes the album.
Other strong tracks include a run through of Wilson’s Hornpipe and Smokey Mountain Rag from Tommy Magness, plus the somewhat funereal Highlander’s Farewell. All of these fit the bluegrass band well, and offer a nice change from the sock-style accompaniment you might hear with them more commonly. Another standout is Snowflake Breakdown, a fun tune with its surprising sharp five chord in the B part.
P.J. George plays bass and shows he has a real appreciation for the fiddle tune style with appropriately understated lines.
Count Corrina Rose Logston as a bluegrass fiddler to be reckoned with, and Bluegrass Fiddler as a sterling contribution to the repertoire.