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Fiddlin’ presents a good introduction to bluegrass music and gives you an idea of its current state and how it continues to thrive.
|Directed By||Julie Simone|
|Written By||Julie Simone, Vicki Vlasic, Janice Hampton|
|Date Released (Video On Demand)||2018|
|Himself||Wayne C. Henderson|
|Themselves||Martha & Kilby Spencer|
|Themselves||The Bing Brothers|
The film focuses on some of the participants of the 80th Annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, VA, which proclaims itself as “World’s Capital of Old Time Mountain Music.” The convention’s participants vary in age, skills, and nationalities, and vie for the coveted “First Place” blue ribbons in the different categories of talents.
Collected Quote(s) or .Gifs
“An art form that is freely given and always shared can be kept forever,”
— Joe Wilson, The Crooked Road
“Old-time music is home,”
— Martha Spencer
Other Noteworthy Facts, Moments and Commentary
- The JAM Program (“Junior Appalachian Musicians”) is a 4-state after-school program (TN, NC, SC, VA) founded by Helen White, which helps promote the history of the culture, music, and dance traditions of mountain music for youth. The program also helps to build the self-esteem of its participants.
- The history of the music and especially the participants in music competitions like Galax’s, has been carried forth mainly by males, and the females profiled in the film are making much headway into Bluegrass and Mountain Music to end that stereotype.
- The film features archive footage of two of Bluegrass music’s most famous players: Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass” and Arthel “Doc” Watson, Grammy-winning musician, singer/songwriter.
The Love Of Mountain Music
You learn that before Bluegrass, there was mountain music, which is a compilation of Scottish, Irish, and African styles of music that came together over generations. There is an example of how it evolved into Bluegrass via archive footage of Bill Monroe playing his famous “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which was Elvis Presley’s first hit song, and how different it sounds from old mountain music. You also get to see some of the handiwork of master luthiers like Wayne C. Henderson, who is famous for building and repairing the guitars, banjos, and mandolins that make up the main instruments used in mountain and Bluegrass music. Henderson’s renown is such that it took 5 years for Eric Clapton to get one of his hand-made guitars from him.
There is a camaraderie among the participants who, from young and old, come together to play and share their love of old mountain and Bluegrass music. Most play by ear and have day jobs, but a few are also teaching what they know to youth to make some extra money and to promote their love of the music and culture.
The history of the music and culture is international, as there are visitors and participants from as far away as England, Argentina, Australia, and Japan, and their love of it enriches their lives, and the dancing and musical performances are very lively and infectious for the viewer to watch. I was particularly impressed with the musicianship of young Presley Barker, an 11-year-old guitarist who (spoiler alert) won the blue ribbon in the adult guitarist category. He’s someone to watch out for.
Met Expectations – Yes
Would Watch Again?
Yes. It’s a great profile on the roots of a special area of county music and the people who live to keep the traditions of it alive.
Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing) – Recommended
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