Dwight Lamb

Hell Agin the Barn Door
More Fiddle and Accordion Tunes from the Great Plains

Rounder Archive 82161-0569-2

Bob's Tune in D; Casey's Tune; Waltz in E; Wilse Walter's Tune; Danish Schottische; Cottoneyed Joe; Beaux of Albany; The Irish Cobbler; Hell Agin the Barn Door; Old Zip Coon; Bill Gray's Quadrille; Storm; The Fox Chase; Dry and Dusty; Cyril's Crosskey Piece; Bring It With You When You Come; Duncan's Reel; Steamboat Around the Bend; Pretty Lies; The Jones Waltz; The Isle of Fyn; Adrain's Hornpipe; Big Horned Cattle; Possum Up a Gum Stump; Over the Ocean Waves Quadrille; Tipp's Tune; Danish Waltz; Purcell's Reel; The Dark Haired Girl; The Woodpile Tune; Missouri Mud; Sally Johnson; Salty River Reel.
This is the second Rounder release of the music of Iowan Dwight Lamb.  It makes a fine complement to that earlier release, Joseph Won a Coated Fiddle (Rounder CD 0429).  Both, part the North American Traditions series, are produced by the tireless Mark Wilson, and this new release is up to his usual standards of excellence in terms of sound quality and accompanying liner notes.  Cover pictureIn addition, this release is also a part of the new Rounder Archive series, which is notable for embedding PDF liner notes in the CDs instead of printing out fat CD booklets full of tiny typeface notes and small photos.  The notes are also made available on Rounder's website.

Dwight Lamb is a unique musician in several ways.  First, he plays fiddle left handed without restringing the instrument; though I've never seen him play in person, I've been told that trying to figure out the mechanics of his technique is baffling upon first encounters.  His considerable repertoire (there are earlier LP and cassette issues of his music recorded in the past thirty years, and several of the tunes on the present release have not been previously made available) comes to a large degree from Nebraskan Bob Walters and his family, who exerted a considerable influence on Dwight via both his radio shows and personal encounters.  There are few others still around who learned directly from Bob Walters and his circle of musicians.  An additional source of fiddle music for Dwight was his father, Clarence Lamb.  Dwight is further unique in that he has a largely separate repertoire of music played on the button accordion, inherited from his Danish grandfather, Chris Jerup.  Finally, he also learned a considerable amount of music from other well known Missouri style fiddle players such as Cyril Stinnet and Casey Jones.

Possibly more than his contemporaries in Missouri, Iowa and surrounding region, he plays in the older 'cross tunings' on the fiddle that are more commonly found in the Appalachians.  He also sprinkles his fiddle tunes with bowed triplets (such as in the B part of Big Horned Cattle, track 23) that were more common in the past than they are among current mid-western fiddlers.  Taken together, these resources gave Dwight a fine command of a large variety of older tune types: waltzes, tunes in 6/8 time (called quadrilles in the 'mid-west'), hoedowns, reels, schottisches, and hornpipes.

For the most part, Dwight is ably backed up by two guitar players, Lynn Holsclaw and Gordon McCann, who has also played on several other NAT releases.  He overdubs his own parlor organ accompaniment on at least one tune, Steamboat Around the Bend; this instrument was commonly used to accompany fiddlers when Dwight was learning music.  There are also a few solo cuts, such as Pretty Lies, which add further texture to the listening experience.  This latter piece, along with The Dark Haired Girl and The Woodpile Tune are examples of 'modal' tunes not so commonly found west of the Mississippi.  In fact, the latter tune is identical to a tune played by West Virginia fiddlers under several titles, including Hell Against the Barn Door.  It's worth noting here that Dwight's tune of that title is an unrelated melody in E that resembles the Say Old Man, Can You Play a Fiddle? strain of fiddle tunes.  This melody came from his father, while Bob Walters had quite a different version of this tune entitled Drunken Wagoneer.

Among my favorites in this collection is Tipps Tune, which Mark Wilson posits may be 'a turn of the century military march', compositions that 'show a strong Germanic and Viennese influence in their chromaticism, which is generally absent in American music of an earlier origin.'  This tune employs an inventive unison octave run in the high part, which also goes into a higher position on the fiddle.  Duncan's Reel is a straightforward, intuitively fingered tune typical of many in Dwight's repertoire.  Adrian's Hornpipe, though not exactly a hornpipe, is a catchy tune that has gained currency among present day fiddlers.

Overall, this is a fine release representing the community of musicians Dwight Lamb comes from and bearing his own unique imprint on that tradition.

Scott Prouty - 3.12.05

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