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Smoke Dawson

Fiddle (LP)

Label: Tompkins Square

Format: LP

Genre: Folk

In stock

€18.90
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First, the music was obscured by history and now almost by the story behind it all.

*2023 stock* Fiddler Smoke Dawson came to Tompkins Square honcho Josh Rosenthal’s attention as he was compiling the Live at Caffe Lena set. The compilation centered on a venue in Upstate New York, where Dawson called home for a bit—just not long enough to leave an easy trail to follow. His rendition of “Devil’s Dream,” a traditional fiddle tune, made it on to the collection and Rosenthal set to work, tracking the mysterious, mustachioed musician. The path wound up leading to the Pacific Northwest, after a stop in the Bay Area, a lover’s death, some bagpipe playing and a bout with cancer.

Tracking him down, though, has finally brought about a proper release for Fiddle, Dawson’s 1971 private press album. It’s the only long-playing artifact that’s been dug up. And likely the only one that exists. Dawson, who skittered around the New York folk scene in its hey-day and performed alongside the Holy Modal RoundersPeter Stampfel, as well as the ByrdsClarence White, lets Fiddle and its 17 tracks offer a panorama of rural American music, replete with a healthy old-world influence. The disc’s a rough-hewn affair, and about a minute into the first track, “John Brown’s Dream,” the solo fiddling drops out long enough for a voice to speak: “Joe and I looked up another fiddler we’d heard earlier. And he’d died.” The music immediately picks up again after the question’s broached.

“I believe it’s Smoke saying that but I have no idea why,” Rosenthal writes in an email. “I asked him about it; he sort of shrugged. It’s neat that it’s in there.” Regardless of the odd inclusion, the album insinuates well-worn compositions, like “Turkey in the Straw” and another version of “Devil’s Dream,” into adapted renderings of works like “Drowsy Maggie Reel.” Dawson’s facile delivery refuses to waver, with only a minute-long detour through some bagpiping thrown in for good measure.

Details
Cat. number: TSQ 5043
Year: 2014
Notes:
Originally released in 1971.

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