Old-Time & Traditional Country Music
Featuring Twin Fiddles, Banjo, Guitar & Bass.
The Corndrinkers play in a recognizable tradition that may be called "old time" or "string band" music. This was the musical choice of much of the rural areas of the middle United States between the great World Wars of this century. Though based upon earlier traditional styles, the music by then was undergoing rapid changes with the onset of far-reaching radio transmissions and the circulation of recorded discs. What had been a music for home and small community gatherings was fast becoming a music of radio and commercial record sales. This new venue allowed the older styles to be polished and fine-tuned by performers whose popularity was transcending their home environments. And employment as radio-based musicians, as unstable as that may have been, provided those performers both an opportunity to develop greater facilities within their chosen styles and a chance to master newer and non-traditional influences.
The Corndrinkers Still—we’ll let you provide the punctuation. Is it “The Corndrinkers, Still,” referring to our longevity: the past 35 years through which we have become not just friends but a family, exploring the wonderful treasure chest of vintage country music?
We present these tunes and songs not just with an antiquarian interest but with the hope that you might find in these older musical styles a hint of the guideposts that have informed our lives and helped us negotiate the complexities of post-industrial society.
To obtain a copy of Corndrinkers Still, send a check for $ 17.00 to Doug Smith, 2582 Medway-New Carlisle Rd., Medway, OH 45341.
Our goal as a band has been to find gems from the long history of country music and give them new life. We present these tunes and songs not just with an antiquarian interest but with the hope that you might find in these older musical styles a hint of the guideposts that have informed our lives and helped us negotiate the complexities of post-industrial society.
In the twenty years between 1925 and 1945, two technological innovations intersected with and rapidly influenced the course of traditional rural music in the United States. The first was not so much the invention of the recorded disk (it had been around for the whole century) as it was a change in its cultural use—companies that sold disks found profit in recording rural musicians where they lived and then marketing the results to local patrons. The Corndrinkers are much in debt to this cultural change, since the first wave of what was to become country music largely documented the rural stringband styles that form the inspiration for many of the tunes on this project.
The widespread purchase of radios, the second important technological innovation, provided a platform for young rural musicians to try to make a living in a new industry, the county music business. Musicians in the late 1930s and 1940s were no longer the farmers and mill hands of the first-wave stringband era. Rather, they were young men and women trying to eke out a living playing music professionally. With one foot still on the farm and the other in the music business, these musicians created the many dynamic styles that have given the Corndrinkers so much inspiration.
My gosh, it seems that everyone has recorded Wabash Blues since this jazz/pop composition entered into the country tradition (both Eastern and Western) early last century. Our version is based mostly on the playing of the Delmore Brothers, Alton and Rabon.
The existential loneliness of the wandering seeker in I’m a Stranger Here, recorded first by Mac Wiseman for Dot Records in 1951, was a frequent theme of the post–Second World War stringband style later called bluegrass. The loneliness of the displaced wanderer resonated with those who joined the great migration from the farm or the mine to the city.
Home by the Sea, Picture on the Wall, and In the Shadow of the Pines are from the repertoire of the famous Carter Family, the First Family of country music, who brought these sentimental songs into the country tradition. The music of the Carter Family forms a foundation upon which the Corndrinkers have built their own music. Listening to Sara’s emotive baritone, or Maybelle’s lead guitar work, is like settling in to the comforts of home—there’s no better way to put it.
The longevity of Carson Robison in the country music business is astonishing. He essentially became the first “studio musician” when he provided the “country” in the recordings of Vernon Dalhart in the 1920s. He continued writing, playing, and performing through the many changes in styles throughout the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. Little Green Valley is a gem that has been much recorded (Marty Robbins and Burl Ives come to mind), but we bet it’s slipped under your radar. Take a listen and remember this stalwart of early country music.
Waltzing on Top of the World and Farewell to Criciuma are from the playing of J.P. and Annadeene Fraley, the northeast Kentucky musicians with whom we were pleased to associate for many decades and from whom we learned so very much—and not just about music. The waltz is a Jim Reeves song we do in the Fraley style. The fiddle tune has a rather more unusual pedigree: J.P. heard this melody while on business in Brazil and thought it a widely known tune. We’re unsure of its provenance but have spent many an evening harmonizing the melody with J.P. around the campfire.
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Duncan's Reel / Three Ponies (Nancy Blake)
Home In San Antone (Fred Rose)
Golden River (Stuart Hamblen)
Sail Away Ladies / Miller's Reel
Dead March / Scotland (Bill Monroe)
Married Life Blues (Homer Sherrill)
Fourth of July Waltz (Art Galbraith)
Old Virginia Reel / Acorn Hill
Frankie and Johnny
Sweet Jenny Lee (Walter Donaldson)
Three Star Hornpipe / St. Anne's Reel
Monroe's Farewell / Growing Old Man
Texas Girl (A. P. Carter)
Riding Down the Canyon
(Gene Autry & Smiley Burnette)
Old French / Old Man, Old Woman
Art Wooten's Hornpipe
Georgia Waltz (George Krise)
Available for sale now! Listen to the previews below.
LISTEN TO THE CORNDRINKERS STILL
Smith’s Reel / Oyster Girl
Farewell to Criciuma
I’m a Stranger Here
Snowbird in the Ashbank
/ Sara Armstrong’s Tune
Home by the Sea
Little Brown Hand
Little Green Valley
Mona in the Garden
Waltzing on Top of the World
Snakewinder / Jimmy in the Swamp
Picture on the Wall
In the Shadow of the Pines
Snowy Evening Waltz
Fisher’s Hornpipe (with caller)
Country music would be much impoverished without the influence of the Hawaiian steel guitar. The Hula Blues has been a staple of the genre since composed by bandleader Johnny Noble in the mid-1920s. The seminal Hawaiian guitarist Sol Hoopii recorded it three times!
The business of country music has only partially engaged the larger American fiddling tradition. Some of the twentieth century’s best fiddlers participated in commercial forms (say, Arthur Smith and Kenny Baker) and some did not (say, J.P. Fraley and Bob Walters). But commercial country music (including bluegrass) has largely ignored the variety and complexity of the fiddling repertoire. Regionalisms persisted surprisingly late into the twentieth century. Most regional styles have now become the result of personal choice, as recording availability and transportation options have increased the mixing of styles and repertoires. Luckily, fiddle performances persist in noncommercial and low-level commercial formats, and many fiddle gatherings across the country still attract high-level musicians.
Smith’s Reel, Oyster Girl, and Jimmy in the Swamp are from the playing of the wonderful Nebraska fiddler Bob Walters, as notated in Christeson’s Old Time Fiddler’s Repertory.
Samuel Bayard collected the tunes played by Pennsylvania fiddler Sara Armstrong in his 1944 book called Hill Country Tunes. Sarah Armstrong’s Tune is untitled in the book, but it has found much favor at fiddle gatherings in the last decade.
Little Brown Hand was played by the great Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith, probably the most influential country fiddler of the mid-twentieth century.
Cliff Bruner learned the Jesse Polka from Mexican laborers as a youth and introduced it to the Western swing crowd when he recorded it in 1938.
Mona in the Garden and Snowy Evening Waltz were both written by Corndrinkers fiddler Barb Kuhns. The first is named for her playful yellow Labrador retriever.
Square dances have been a mainstay of the Corndrinkers through the decades and we have played Fisher’s Hornpipe at hundreds of these events. We thought we would include our caller, Ceal Turnbull, on this cut to give you a taste of why so many find square dance gatherings so enjoyable.
The Corndrinkers: Barbara Kuhns, fiddle; harmony vocal on 2 Linda Scutt, fiddle; lead vocal on 6, harmony vocal on 2, 4, 8, 11, 14, 16 Tom Duffee, banjo; lead vocal on 4, 11, 16; harmony vocal on 6, 8, 14 Doug Smith, guitar; dobro on 11, 15; lead vocal on 2, 8; harmony vocal on 6, 14 Al Turbull, bass; lead vocal on 14
Our thanks to: Bill and Sherry Gorby for letting us record in their living room while looking out at their cows at pasture. Andrew Bevan for adding his fiddle to “Farewell to Criciuma.” Floyd Alexander, a Corndrinker himself (whenever we can get him), for playing guitar on 11, 15, 17. Chuck Good for the artwork and design. Deena Turnbull for the photo archives. Bob Shank, our hammered-dulcimer-playing recording engineer, for permitting us to perform as we wished—but still making us sound halfway decent.