Red Fox Chasers – I’m Going Down to North Carolina: The Complete Recordings of the Red Fox Chasers [1928-31]

January 01, 1970

(Tompkins Square)


Ah the phonograph.  What a revelation it must have been to be able to hear recorded music in
those earliest days of retail music sales.  A family could, at long last, purchase a popular song and listen to it
at home.  And what a boon to string band
musicians it must have been to sell their wares via catalog rather than by
playing the local dance halls night after night, for lo and behold the black
shellac discs actually sold!  A
revelation, indeed!


The 1920s and 1930s saw the big upswing in recorded string
band music and much of what we think of from that period comprise the golden
classics of the folk music repertoire: recordings by the Carter Family, Dock
Boggs, and Clarence Ashley, to name a few.


Of course, there were numerous lesser known examples of
rural American music recorded during the period and much of that would likely
be lost to history were it not for the likes of Dust-to-Digital, Tompkins
Square, and a few other enterprising labels who are dedicated to keeping that
music alive.  Tompkins Square is special
in that pack as they are not solely a reissue company but have championed the
likes of Ran Blake, Powell St John, and, by way of disclosure, a folk/indie
rock project I did with Sharron Kraus a few years back.  Suffice to say, the Tompkins Square catalog
defies easy classification.


I’m Going Down to
North Carolina: The Complete Recordings of the Red Fox Chases [1928-31]
Tompkins Square’s latest digitizing of rare 78rpm material and it’s a
fascinating document to be sure.  Forty
cuts of prime string band material from northwest North Carolina, the material
here acts as a kind of mini-history of the time and place: quick step dance
numbers, some waltzy ballads, and the occasional skit and/or murder ballad—all
of which are mixed in with pieces that have a sense of immediacy and
importance.  “Put My Little Shoes Away,”
although recorded by the Chasers fifty years after its composition, remains a
poignant reminder of how hard life could be when faced with poverty and poor
health conditions, both of which then, as now, strike children the hardest.


The Red Fox Chasers aren’t quite the knockout that Tompkins
Square’s Polk Miller reissue was, but there are a few revelations amongst the
cuts, in particular the Chasers’s rendition of “My I Sleep In Your Barn
Tonight, Mister?” which differs from Charlie Poole’s 1925 version in the
inclusion of extra verses Poole did not record.  That alone makes it a must-hear for fans of the old vernacular.


Standout Tracks: “May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister?” “Put My Little Shoes Away” CHRISTIAN KIEFER




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