The combination of the fiddle and the banjo is one of the world’s oldest musical traditions, dating back before the beginning of the Civil War. On Hair & Hide, fiddler George Jackson digs deeper into this tradition by presenting a diverse set of tunes that spotlight these two instruments.
The most stand out element of Hair & Hide is that seven different banjo players are featured, which allows for different styles and approaches to be utilized. Pieces such as Prosser (with BB Bowness) and Frankie (with Frank Evans) feature the three finger style typically used in bluegrass, while Town’s End (with Jake Blount) and Peter Francisco (with Joe Overton, utilize the old time clawhammer style of banjo playing. Not only does it give the project variety, but it allows the fiddle and banjo concept to be taken in multiple directions. It also gives Jackson the opportunity to present his full capabilities as a fiddler
Another strong aspect of this recording is the blend of original material along with traditional pieces. Mississippi Sawyer (featuring Wes Corbett) and Ida Red (with Brad Kolodner) fall into the latter category, but other tunes such as Neighbor Mike (also with Kolodner) and Turtle Rock (with Uma Peters) were written by George himself. Even though they were composed in recent days, the instrumentation and the feeling in these performances make these originals sound like tunes that would’ve been played in earlier times.
A few of the other original pieces were written by other players. Three Shoes (with Jake Blount) is a haunting tune composed by fiddler Judy Hyman. The closing track on Hair & Hide, Bits Of Banjos was written by BB Bowness, which she performs here alongside Jackson. It’s a gentle bluegrass piece, one that brings attention to the melodic side of Bowness’ banjo stylings.
While there are other great fiddle and banjo albums out there, Hair & Hide takes a unique spin on this well loved historic musical tradition. With the combination of new and old material, George Jackson’s ability to tackle multiple styles of fiddling, and several different banjoists, this album shows what these two instruments can do together in a way that no other recording has previously.