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Album Review: The Legendary J.E. Mainer: Volume 3

Friday, December 26, 2014 @12:00:00 AM

J.E. Mainer: Volume 3.
J.E. Mainer: Fiddle, Jew's Harp and Harmonica
Banjo: Billy Edwards and ?
Guitar: Red Smiley and Gene Burris    
Bass: John Palmer 
Fiddle: J.E. Mainer and Clarence Tate
Mandolin: Gene Burris

Track Titles: Seven and a Half, Devilish Mary, Hannah, Baby Buntin, Ride Old Buck to Water, Casey Jones, Arkansas Traveler, Change In Business All Around, Polly Put the Kettle On, shady Grove, Old Blind Horse, Papa's Billy Goat, Burglar Man, Don't Tax the Gals, Eleven Cents Cotton, Home Sweet Home, Shortenin' Bread, Johnny Get Your Gun, I had An Old Grey Mare, Alabama Camp Meeting.

This CD generously displays the talents of Legendary Old Time Fiddler, Harmonica/ Jew's Harp playing and singing J.E. Mainer of Mainer's Mountaineers fame. He recorded with his brother Wade on banjo as Mainer's Mountaineer's back in the 1930's and early 40's. This CD is some of that great Old Time Mountain Music with very generous and heartfelt assistance from Red Smiley and his band, the Bluegrass Cutups. It was recorded in the late 60's at Uncle Jim O'Neal's Rural Rhythm studio when both J.E. and Red Smiley were with the Rural Rhythm Label. It seems to me that this recording is a demonstration of an Old Time music show like one might have paid a dime to get into back in the late 1930's. It is pre-Bluegrass entertainment at its best with great string band work plus harmonica and the almost extinct, Jew's Harp. The repertoire is from the 1930's country music repertoire with breakdown fiddling, a few standard/popular songs of the day, a story or two with accompaniment and several comedy tunes thrown in just for the fun. The opening number, Seven and Half, gets your attention right away and from there J.E., Red Smiley and the Boys are On the Air with some great Old Time entertainment!

There is a very good reason J.E. Mainer is famous for his fiddle playing and you'll hear why on this CD. The band grabs the bull by the horns from the get go taking command of this recording and not letting go until the last song. There is a spark of life in these old tunes and stories that the band reaches into and delivers with pep, vim, vigor and vitality. It has the feeling of "singing into the can" from the now famous movie O'Brother Where Art Thou. Red Smiley and his Bluegrass musicians do not, in my opinion, become the dominant part in this presentation. They respect the material and the musicianship of J.E. Mainer by providing his music exceptional band support work. A tip of my hat to these great Bluegrass musicians for their superlative work on this CD.

There are a couple of different banjo playing styles on this CD as well as some Bluegrass picking. The liner notes do not credit J.E. with playing banjo on this recording, but he is pictured on the cover with a resonated model (20's?) Vega banjo. Billy Edwards might well be doing all of the banjo work and if he is he is no stranger to the pre Bluegrass playing styles that are exhibited on this recording and does a wonderful job. The appeal will fall more to those who enjoy the Old Time / Mountain music from the 1920's and 30's, but don't let that stop those of you who think of yourselves as only Bluegrass musicians. This is great music and great fun. I have a feeling that the Nashville rock n roll centric music business is finding itself in the midst of another flameout. They have about abused themselves into a funk that is no longer country by a country mile. I think it is finding itself in need of some of those old Crazy Water Crystals and an infusion of Old Time and early Bluegrass to move 'em back to the Old Home Place, from whence they came.  

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Album Review - J.E. Mainer Volume 3

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