Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fiddle and Violins: Orange Blossom Special


Vassar Clements & the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: Orange Blossom Special


I've danced around not posting any obvious songs this week, but heck with it. If we can't post Vassar Clements on fiddle week, then what can be said for us? And Orange Blossom Special is known as the fiddle player's national anthem, so it's a natural fit.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken was the first bluegrass album I'd ever heard, and it came courtesy of two of my college freshman roommates at the University of Michigan. Robyn played violin, but we made her play fiddle; Meryl played banjo, and me, well, I played guitar. What we lacked in talent we made up for in enthusiasm. Robyn especially liked to play this spirited song from her album at full volume at 7 in the morning after our other hallmates kept us awake until 2 am. (She liked to alternate this with Gregorian chants).

It might be easier to list musicians that Vassar Clements didn't play with over his long career, but here's a quick list of some of those he accompanied: Bill Monroe, John Hartford, Norman Blake, Earl Scruggs, the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, David Grisman, Dicky Betts, Paul McCartney, Stephane Grapelli, Woody Herman, and Linda Ronstadt. He was an early innovator in what's now called newgrass.

This album, both innovative and well-received in 1972, brought together many traditional bluegrass and country-western artists with the country rock group, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It also introduced Clements to a broader audience, including Robyn, Meryl, me, and those hapless hallmates at U of M.

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