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Tommy Jarrell

The Legacy of Tommy Jarrell Volume 1: Sail Away Ladies – 1999 (County)

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

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CDs by Tommy Jarrell

The haggard wheeze of vintage mountain fiddling isn't always an easy listen. But often the payoff comes only after one applies almost archaeological attention to detail. It can be exhausting.

This volume of solo fiddle (with occasional vocals) is the first such record genuinely captivating on all levels. Jarrell's technical prowess, natural showmanship, and gracious demeanor come through clearly - obliterating instantly academic concerns over metric variations, tunings, regional musical dialects. Refreshingly, the foremost impact is musical. What wonderful sound. Kicking off with a nearly seven minute version of "The Drunken Hiccups," Jarrell sets the tone for the entire set. He sings while fiddling, bows and plucks simultaneously, and invest each tune with unbridled drive. He even plays some tunes twice, illustrating different approaches to venerable numbers.

Kudos to County not only for the sumptuous packaging, but for including Jarrell's spoken interludes. In addition to providing interesting information on the source and style of each tune, they let us feel like we are sitting right next to him on the porch.