Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"Back Porch Bluegrass / !!!Live!!!Almost!!! / Pickin’ And Fiddlin’" by THE DILLARDS - A Review Of Their First 3 Albums on Elektra Records - Now Remastered By Beat Goes On of the UK onto 2CDs in 2014...

“…Our Part Of The Country…” 

A clever release this - three impossibly rare early Sixties albums on Elektra Records featuring Bluegrass pioneers THE DILLARDS. You get stories about timber and Prairie people, drunken Billy goats, possum-eating bumblebees and peeved women about to go the grave - all of it sung by finger pickin' raconteurs on supersonic stringed instruments and shop-bought fiddles. Let's get deliverance on the duelling banjos right away...

UK released October 2014 - Beat Goes On BGOCD 1167 (Barcode 5017261211675) breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (75:05 minutes):
1. Old Joseph
2. Somebody Touched Me
3. Polly Vaughn
4. Banjo In The Hollow
5. Dooley
6. Lonesome Indian
7. Ground Hog
8. Old Home Place
9. Hickory Hollow
10. Old Man At The Mill
11. Doug's Tune
12. Rainin' Here This Morning
13. Cold Trailin'
14. Reuben's Train
15. Duelin' Banjo
Tracks 1 to 15 are the album "Back Porch Bluegrass" - released 1963 in the USA on Elektra EKL 232 (Mono) and Elektra EKS 7232 (Stereo) - Stereo Mix Used

16. Black-Eyed Susie
17. Never See My Home Again
18. There Is A Time
19. Old Blue
20. Sinkin' Creek
21. The Whole World Round
22. Liberty!
23. Dixie Breakdown
24. Walkin' Down The Line
25. Jody's Tune
26. Pretty Polly
27. Taters In Sandy Land/Gimme Chaw T'Baccer
28. Buckin' Mule
Tracks 16 to 28 are the album "!!!Live!!!Almost!!!" - released 1964 in the USA on Elektra Records EKL 265 (Mono and Elektra EKS 7265 (Stereo) - Stereo Mix used

Disc 2 (33:44 minutes):
1. Hamilton County
2. Fisher's Hornpipe
3. Paddy On The Turnpike
4. Jazz Bow Rag
5. Apple Blossom
6. Tom and Jerry
7. Cotton Patch
8. Durang's Hornpipe
9. Wagoner
10. Sally Johnson
11. Crazy Creek
12. Drunken Billy Goat
13. Black Mountain Rag
14. Twinkle, Twinkle
15. Wild John
16. Soppin' The Gravy
Tracks 1 to 16 are the album "Pickin' And Fiddlin'" by THE DILLARDS with BYRON BERLINE - released 1965 in the USA on Elektra Records EKL 285 (Mono) and Elektra EKS 7285 (Stereo) - Stereo Mix Used

This 2CD reissue comes in BGO's now standard card slipcase and has a 24-page booklet which reproduces the full liner notes to their first 3 albums (song by song breakdowns and even guitar tunings) and best of all - a superb new 2014 remaster by ANDREW THOMPSON from tapes licenced from WEA. As this is primarily acoustic music with a double-bass rhythm section - the sound is wonderful - and amazingly evocative of their period.

Hailing out of Salem in Missouri - Doug and his brother Rodney Dillard (Doug on Banjo and Rod on Dobro and Guitar) formed the group in 1962 with Roy Webb and Mitchell Hammond on Mandolin and Double Bass. As JOHN O'REGAN'S superb liner notes amply show - their contribution to Bluegrass and American Roots Music is immense - in many ways introducing the genre to whole generations via their regular appearances on the "The Andy Griffith Show". Masquerading as "The Darlings" (a musical family on the prime-time American TV show) - Elektra Records with its long track record for Folk and Country acts were the natural home for the talented players.

Right from the brake-neck pace of the opening instrumental "Old Joseph" - their combined banjo/mandolin playing and the lovely clean production make for a pretty lethal combo. When the vocals arrive it feels like you're on the set of "O, Brother Where Art Thou?" The double-bass opening of "Polly Vaughn" has amazing clarity and they're won't be many who don't recognize "Duelin' Banjo" which Eric Weisberg later made famous on John Boorman's disturbing "Deliverance" movie in 1972 (actually charting the single).

The live album sees the boys chatting about the Ozarks and old men chewing tobacco as a 48 Hudson full of Jehovah Witnesses passes them disdainfully by. And again the sound is fabulous. The storytelling on "The Whole World Round" (lyrics above) about settlers moving from one remote part of the country to the next to get away from 'neighbors' and their 'chopping axes' is brilliant - a song that also showcases their superb Everly Brothers type harmonies (four part). The album I like least is "Pickin' And Fiddlin'" with Fiddle Maestro Byron Berline - which does exactly what it says on the tin - fiddle tune after fiddle tune. It's hard-core traditional Americana and not nearly as charming or as much fun as the Banjo/Mandolin/Guitar battles that preceded it.

"I don't know how many of you know who Bobby Dylan is - but he's probably done more for Folk Music than anybody..." - Mitch Jayne's wonderful preamble before Dylan's "Walkin' Down The Line" to the 1964 audience reels the crowd in (a great talker like Tom Paxton - witty and erudite) and they finish it with a mountain tune "Buckin' Mule" as they sound like an he-haw outtake from a Coens movie that's years ahead of its time. Great stuff. Doug would famously leave the group in 1968 to form DILLARD & CLARK with GENE CLARK of THE BYRDS and have a part in the whole Country Rock revolution...

THE DILLARDS won't be for everyone for sure (especially not that third album) - but the first two records are magical. And I love the way they make you feel like you're eavesdropping on real Americana - and not the hick part neither...


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