|Roots of the Red Clay Ramblersback to Hollow Rock's Home|
as They Appeared on the Original LP in 1968
The Hollow Rock String Band has been playing old-time string band music in the Durham, North Carolina area since 1966. Its repertory consists of tunes learned from old fiddlers’ conventions in North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, and adapted to the old-time string band style which has long enlivened country-dances in the upper South. Partly because the style is so closely associated with dancing, it focuses upon the music, not the musicians: there are no “breaks” showing off individual instruments, and the melody is repeated with only slight variations. All the instruments but the guitar play the melody, and even the guitar occasionally takes up the melodic line. The banjo is played in the style variously described as “clawhammer” or “knocking,” and the guitar uses the well-known flat pick style with a generous portion of moving bass-line. Of the fiddle style it can only be said that, while each player has his own mannerisms and certain regions likewise develop their own stylistic traits, fiddlers generally learn tune by tune, leaving many of the stylistic elements in the tune as they acquired it. Few fiddlers play every tune in the same style, and the differences reflect their multiple sources. The mandolin generally follows the fiddle, making only the adaptations necessary in transferring the melody to a different instrument.
Shortly before this album was recorded, Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia died at the age of 83. Mr. Reed, who provided us with most of the tunes on this record, was an extraordinary repository of traditional tunes of the highest caliber. He was born near Peterstown in Monroe County, West Virginia and grew up in the midst of a vigorous tradition of old-time instrumental music. At an early age he learned to play the fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and harmonica, and he quickly acquired a rich and varied repertory of East and West Virginia tunes. His father, uncle, and elder brother were all musicians, and at least ten other older men in the area taught him tunes. He came under the particular influence of Quincy Dillion, a Civil War fifer and fiddler who, though over ninety when Henry was a boy, still relished his whiskey and his ancient fiddle tunes. The full extent and quality of Henry Reed’s repertory will become clearer with the appearance of a book-length collection, devoted solely to his tunes, which I am now preparing. In the meantime this small sampler is gratefully dedicated to his memory and the example of his musicianship.
Thompson introduces the band
Alan Jabbour, our fiddler, is from
Jacksonville, Florida and came to Durham to study English at Duke.
He began collecting traditional music in 1965 and has recorded
old-time fiddlers in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
When he is not teaching English or writing his dissertation, he divides
his time between studying folk music and playing fiddle tunes with the
rest of us. Our mandolin player, Bert Levy, has just completed his
medical studies at Duke. He comes from Long Island, New York,
is a sailboat enthusiast, a classical guitarist, and has played banjo in
a bluegrass band. Bobbie Thompson designs book jackets for Duke University
Press and teaches printmaking in the art department. She has been
playing guitar since 1965. I'm in philosophy at U.N.C. and started
playing the banjo in 1961. Bobbie and I come here from Jacksonville,
Florida via New Orleans. We have a seven year-old daughter, Jesse,
who says all fiddle tunes sound alike. Hollow Rock is the name of
the community near Durham where we live.
|Hollow Rock String Band, Union Grove 1967|