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Grayson-Whitter

The Recordings of Grayson & Whitter – 1999 (County)

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

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CDs by Grayson-Whitter

Vocalist/fiddler G.B Grayson and guitarist Henry Whitter recorded these seminal sides between 1928 and 1930, when Grayson died in an automobile accident. Their music is a wonderful glimpse of what we now call country music in early, transitional stage. Grayson's yearning vocal and agile fiddle (which he often plays in unison to his vocals) often cling to modal scales, the patterns that form the basis of Scotch and Irish folk music. Whitter's guitar chords, however, are demonstrative of more contemporary harmonies. On tunes like "I've Always Been a Rambler" and "Never Be as Fast as I Have Been," the differences result in an eerie tension: not quite dissonance, yet not quite balanced either.

Grayson and Whitter were the first to record the folk standard "Tom Dooley," included here. It is fitting, since it was Grayson's uncle who tracked the murderous Dula (Dooley) down in 1866!! Other highlights include Grayson's remarkable fiddling on "Going Down the Lee Highway" (rife with double-stops and brisk runs) and the numerous hysterical interjections shouted by both men during various songs. This is fine collection, but one wishes it had included other Grayson and Whitter classics, like "Nine Pound Hammer" and the notoriously raunchy "Shout Little Lulu." Hopefully said tunes will grace a second volume.