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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Texas Fiddle Favorites

Recorded in 1966, Texas Fiddle Favorites captured Major Franklin, Lewis Franklin and Norman Solomon backed by Omega Burden on guitar and Betty Solomon on piano. Charles Faurot produced and recorded the album released by County Records. Here are a couple excerpts on the Texas style of backup written by Charles Faurot in the liner notes of the album. I highly recommend the full liner notes posted below as they contain some very interesting information about the musicians and the regionality of the area.

“It is quite common for one fiddler’s accompanist to get up on stage at the start of the contest and remain there to back up all the contestants, regardless of whether or not he regularly accompanies them. The tight band structure so essential to Southeastern fiddling contests is largely absent in Texas. In some cases, a “second,” for example a bass player, will come to the contest by himself. As the contest gets underway the bass player may be asked by a fiddler to back him up, and he may remain on stage for the duration of the contest. Similarly, at informal jam sessions at the motel (selected as much for the availability of a piano as comfort), all the back-up musicians will accompany a fiddler who will keep playing until he becomes tired, or until another fiddler manages to take his place.”

Similarities are also found in the accompanists. Indeed, the technique of the back-up musicians is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the overall Texas sound. Rhythm, or as the Texans call it, “sock” guitar is much preferred to the open guitar styles still commonly found in bluegrass bands and in the accompaniment of Southeastern fiddlers. Running a close second to the guitar in popularity is the piano, along with other back-up instruments such as tenor banjos and guitars. Texas fiddlers require their guitarists to follow the tune more closely than the usual three chord pattern found in many fiddle tunes. The accompanist must learn the entire fingerboard intimately in order to provide a wide variety of appropriate bar chords. For instance, a bluegrass guitar picker in backing up Durang’s Hornpipe would only use the three basic chords, “D”, “G” and “A-7th,” plus bass runs to tie the chords together. A Texas style guitarist or pianist would not only use these chords but also “D-7th,” “G-7th,” “F-sharp,” “E-flat,” “F-sharp minor ”and “E-minor.””

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