Hobart Smith, Saltville, Virginia :
New On CD
Archie Fisher lands honour
CD & Song List
Bok, Muir & Trickett - TURNING TOWARD THE MORNING
Ed Trickett - The Telling Takes Me Home
Helen Schneyer - Ballads, Broadsides and Hymns
Bok, Muir, Trickett - A Water Over Stone
Bok, Muir, Trickett - The Ways of Man
Hobart Smith, Saltville, Virginia
Peg and Awl
Columbus Stockade Blues
Devil and the Farmer's Wife, The
Girl I Left Behind Me, The
Great Titanic, The
John Greer's Tune
Meet Me in Rose Time, Rosie
Peg and Awl
Short Life in Trouble
Sitting On Top of the World
Stormy Rose the Ocean
Hobart was surely one of the most important traditional banjo pickers ever recorded, a player whose music strongly influenced (and inspired) many revival banjoists. He was also a straight-ahead singer of old-time songs and ballads, sometimes with guitar accompaniment.
This album was recorded at WFMT in Chicago while Hobart was performing at a festival in that city, one of his few excursions out of his native Blue Ridge Mountains. For anyone interested in traditional American 5-string banjo styles, this is an essential recording.
Hobart Smith was born in Smyth County, Virginia, on May 10, 1897. He was the oldest of four brothers in a family of eight children born to King and Louvine Smith. Hobart says that his is the seventh generation of Smiths in Virginia since his ancestors came from England. Thus it is probable that many of the Old World songs in his family have had a long development in America since they first crossed the Atlantic.
The name of Hobart Smith and that of his sister, Mrs. Texas Gladden, first became familiar to folksong collectors through their recordings made by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress (see Discography). This recording, however, represents Hobart Smith's first solo album, it was made in the studios of Chicago's WFMT by that station's program director, Norm Pellegrini, in October of 1963, during Hobart Smith's fall concert tour.
The selection of songs and instrumentals was influenced by the desire to present a cross-section of Hobart's repertoire and to avoid repetition of material previously recorded on other labels. One important dimension of Hobart's music which is not represented is his very personal piano style. A second recording is planned which will feature the piano as well as unaccompanied ballads and hymns.
During Hobart's visit to Chicago, several evenings were spent sitting with friends, singing, making music, and just talking. Much of this informal music and discussion was taped and from these reels we have excerpted Hobart's own story and his views on the music he plays as he told it in his own words.
In compiling the notes for these songs, I have called upon the services of Mr. Harlan Daniel of Chicago, originally from Stone County, Arkansas, who is one of the leading collectors of and authorities on the early commercial recording of folk music. Most of the discographies listed here were contributed by Harlan.
The early phonograph records were, in fact, the first adequate documentation of folk music, since it is now recognized that just noting the tune and the verses on paper is barely half the story. It is also true that these early recordings had a strong influence on the tradition, in that they spread certain songs and styles of singing and playing throughout the South, in particular, and in many other parts of the country where these records were played on the radio.
Hobart Smith's most active years as a "functional11 musician in his community were during the time that these early recordings were most popular and many of the artists on these records, such as Clarence Ashley, Clarence Green and Kelly Harrel, were his friends and contemporaries. In describing Hobart as a "functional" musician, I mean that he supplied the music for the social functions of the community — square dances, religious meetings, birthday parties, weddings, and so forth. To do this job, Hobart had to be very much in tune with the musical "aesthetic" of his community and up until the time of his meeting with Alan Lomax in 1942, he was probably not aware of the significance of preserving the older traditional songs. As he states in his autobiographical account: "I had just about left it." He had "gotten onto the popular stuff", that is, the commercial country music of the 1930's. Almost all of the selections on this record reflect the older tradition to which Hobart has, happily, returned and represents the period of from about 1900 to 1930.
Side I; Band 1. SOLDIER'S JOY
(Banjo tuning: GCGBD)
This tune was well-known in Britain at least as early as the latter part of the eighteenth century. Robert Burns used the tune for his soldier's song in "The Jolly Beggars". It was, and remains, a "standard" among old-time fiddle players (see Band 7). The tune was surely adapted by southern banjo pickers at an early date. Hobart learned the tune from his father, but plays it here in the style learned from John Greer.
Sid Harkreader and Uncle Dave Macon - Vocalion 14887-5047; 1924
Fiddlin' John Carson - Okeh 45011; 1926
Nashville Washboard Band - Library of Congress AAFS L9
Jimmie Driftwood (with new lyrics) RCA Victor LPM-1635
Traditional Music from Grayson and Carroll Counties (Va.)
Glen Smith on fiddle - Folkways FS 3811
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