As the title suggests, you stand before a GATE to a world of sound not present in today’s popular music. It does not seek to amuse or enlighten; neither does it ask for approval nor seek equality with other forms of entertainment. It hovers alone, radiated from the heart, a visceral expression of a mountain people and the revivalist tradition that shares its passion. Stripped of polish and production, the tone is rich, yet raw - the resonance of bow on string, finger on gut. This is Old Time Fiddle and Banjo.
The Old Time Appalachian fiddle tradition is blessed with a particular blend of melody and rhythm: the very amalgamation of British Isles melodic fiddle and African American cadence. This is not to say that displaced Africans had no melody, nor the Isles any rhythm, but these salient features combine differently in each region to create its own special mix. Folklorists have demonstrated this process; arguments center on how early it happened. We are, however, rewarded with hours of speculation on the specifics of how hornpipes and reels lost their lilt and gained a driving passion. Some tunes on this CD, from the Civil War era and the minstrel tradition, undoubtedly fit this description. Others come directly from the African American experience. All in all, they form an limitless reservoir of variation from which we draw as we strive to recreate the tunes in the “Old Time” styles.
As I look over the tune list I cannot help but notice a disproportionate number of Melvin Wine tunes. During the first recording sessions in the Spring of 2003 we received word of Melvin’s passing. My thoughts, therefore, were channeled toward him and his music. This effort is not meant to be an official “tribute to” ; others who knew him better are more qualified for that. But Melvin’s fiddling has been such an inspiration to me that I could not help the imbalance. Gerry Milnes, in his wonderful memorial in the “Old Time Herald”, writes that Melvin “was a conduit to something much older than himself.” And in an era when we look for meaning in an older music less affected by the constraints of modern commercialism, that conduit is . . . priceless.