Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ROW: Benton Flippen - "Old Time, New Times" (Rounder)

In a ratio approximate to saxophonists in Manhattan, fiddlers practically grew on trees in the North Carolina of the early to mid-past century. Benton Flippen was one of a number operating out of the town of Airy and family taught in his craft. Thanks in part to being blessed with large mitts, Flippen perfected a singular approach to both fiddle and banjo. A recent centenarian, he’s still with us and still performing. This invaluable Rounder set offers an extensive aural aperture into his art. The limitations of time and space erase as cuts from his salad days with the Green Valley Boys at the cusp of the 1950s juxtapose with more recent performances from the 1970s, 80s and 90s in the company of The Smokey Valley Boys. Flippen’s style and sound remains remarkably consistent whatever the vintage and the collection’s 27 tracks hit many of the major milestones of the American Old Timey songbook from “More Pretty Girls Than One” on down through “Fishers Hornpipe” and “Lost Indian”. A detailed essay and various snapshots across decades complete the portrait of a musician who shelved his passion when life’s responsibilities held sway but never fully forgot its pleasures in times both prosperous and lean.

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