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Legend of Clark Kessinger

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Album Review

Ace fiddler, Clark Kessinger was around 68 years of age when he made the recordings released in 1964 and reissued by County records in 1996 as The Legend of Clark Kessinger. A veteran of the golden age of Appalachian fiddling in the late '20s and early ‘30s, he had been working full-time as a house painter for decades when the burgeoning folk and blues revival of the early '60s swept him up and set him to performing before appreciative young audiences. Everything that was great about Kessinger's earlier works (which have been reissued in three volumes by Document under the heading of the Kessinger Brothers) is present on this exciting recording, and then some. Guitarist Gene Meade and banjoist Wayne Hauser sustain high levels of first-rate musicianship as Kessinger fiddles in fourth and fifth gear, utterly at home in his true element. It would be difficult to find a better sampling of this man's artistry, if such a record exists. The playlist was firmly based in the sessions of his youth, and includes "Leather Breeches," "Flop Eared Mule," "Billy in the Low Ground," "Hell Among the Yearlings," "Over the Waves," and a re-creation of his original cover version of "Wednesday Night Waltz" by the Leake County Revelers. Note that "Chicken in the Barnyard" is also known as "Cluck Old Hen," while the full title of track 13 is "Dance All Night (With a Dram in Your Hand)." With the exception of "Richmond Polka," which somehow didn't make it onto this release, this is the same album that was issued in 1966 by Moses Asch on his Folkways label as Clark Kessinger: Fiddler. Any way you cut it, this is one bluegrass collection not to miss out on.


Born: 27 July 1896 in Kanawha County, WV

Genre: Country

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '60s, '70s

One of the greatest of old-time fiddlers, Clark Kessinger and his nephew, Luches, were billed as the Kessinger Brothers and recorded for the Brunswick company in the late '20s, producing records that greatly influenced other fiddle players around the South. After Luches' death in 1944, Clark appeared only at local dances around Charleston, West Virginia, until he was "rediscovered" during the folk revival of the 1960s. Astonishingly, Kessinger was still near the peak of his powers and suddenly found...
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Legend of Clark Kessinger, Clark Kessinger
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