Some Fabulous Yonder (CD)
Old-time songs and music from North America with fiddle, banjo, guitar and mandolin
River Driving; Indian Whoop; Doney Gal; Beulah Land; Adieu My Lovely Nancy; Libby Prison; Cumberland and The Merrimac; The Bold Privateer; Felix the Soldier; Cowboy’s Life; Old Paint; Wild Bill Jones; Mount’s Untitled / Setauket; Shortening Bread
On the CD Some Fabulous Yonder, Jeff Davis presents a wide variety of old music, from Appalachian songs (Frank Proffitt's Will Bill Jones) to Long Island fiddle tunes, American versions of English folksongs, civil war ballads, songs of lumbermen and cowboys, the moving Doney Gal and an unusual version of Old Paint amongst them. He demonstrates his grasp of traditional vocal styles with two unaccompanied songs, and his mastery of the banjo with a version of Shortening' Bread that makes this old chestnut come vigorously to life. Elsewhere on the CD Jeff's considerable skills on fiddle, guitar and mandocello are amply demonstrated.
Accompanying Jeff on some of the songs are Howie Bursen (banjo), Brian Peters (button accordion, concertina and guitar), Jay Rosenburg (drum, vocals) and Chris Rua (cane flute, vocals).
Jeff Davis is as much an expert on the history of old music as on its performance, and the CD includes a 24-page booklet packed with information on the songs and the singers who sang them, accompanied by some fascinating photographs.
Comes with extensive liner notes.
All the songs on this CD are traditional. I'm no purist: for example, I've recorded three cowboy songs and while one is pretty damn close to the original, one is more Davis than Dallas, and the other as much Donegal as Doney Gal. I've always liked music from places like Miltown, Malbay, Mali, Malaysia and Moscow, but I fear insulting people there by playing their music badly. I've stuck to Macon, Missoula, Missouri, and Massachusetts and pray I don't offend the good people of those places.
As a child, I tried my hand at piano, clarinet, ukulele, and guitar. Then I heard "Tom Dooley." The song was different from anything I had heard, full of murder, hanging, deception, gloom, and a seemingly remote locale. Suddenly I wanted to play the banjo.
That same year, Frank Warner came to my school and sang songs that he and his wife, Anne, had collected on travels through parts of rural America. Frank played a homemade wood-and-groundhog-skin banjo. I carefully concealed my astonishment and delight from my peers when Frank sang "Tom Dooley," and talked about finding this song. I was floored. At that time it seemed to me that these Warners had stepped into the past and brought it to me to admire.
Frank was the only folk performer of his day to sing the old songs in the style of the old singers. I didn't know then how atypical Frank's approach was, but I know now how much I absorbed. The Warners' two boys, jeff and Gerret, became my schoolmates and suddenly I found myself meeting Jean Ritchie, Alan Lomax, Frank Proffitt, and, at the Newport Folk Festivals, hearing John Hurt and Dewey Balfa, and hundreds more.
There is plenty of music on this recording that was not collected by the Warners. Those hundreds of others are in my head, like Bob Copper and Paul Brady (the two of them were once, for one song, my band). There is here an inside, scarcely audible chorus of all the musicians I have heard.
"Jesus, as a maker of parables, invites his hearers, by means of his tales and riddles, to pass over from the attenuated world of jaded sense to some fabulous yonder he sees before him. He wonders why others about him cannot see what is so evident to him."
- Robert Funk quoted by Russell Shorto in Gospel Truth.