Allan, a.k.a. “Fiddlin’ Al” McCanless, has been pulling the bow for Tarheel combos since the 1960s. The New Deal String Band, Red Clay Ramblers, Bluegrass Experience and Outliers have all featured McCanless’ peerless fiddling.
“Surrealistic Fiddle is” a 17-tune collection of old-timey chestnuts he’s learned and enjoyed for some 50 years. A man of many talents, McCanless plays all instruments – guitar, banjo, mandolin – but the fiddle’s to the fore.
Fiddlin’ Al takes us back to simpler times with timeless tunes: “Arkansas Traveler,” “Hog-Eyed Man,” “Folding Down the Sheets,” “Cluck Old Hen,” “Glory in the Meeting House.”
Several of the tunes made the journey from the British Isles to the hills and hollows of Appalachia. Others were born here and embody the experiences of the settlers who composed and played them.
McCanless pays homage to Alan Jabbour who, as a graduate student at Duke University, learned from octogenarian Henry Reed tunes he brought to the seminal 1960s Hollow Rock String Band: “Kitchen Girl,” “Betsy Likens,” “George Booker” and “Red Fox.”
McCanless plays with finesse and heightened awareness to the feel of each number and its cultural context. “Surrealistic Fiddle” (a sly nod to Jefferson Airplane), though embedded in the 21st Century, would surely bring a smile to the planters and fiddlers and dancers of the pioneering South.
Correspondent Jack Bernhardt
“Surrealistic Fiddle: Tunes from the Backwoods”
Fiddlin’ Al McCanless
To order: send $12 to Al McCanless, 115 Hobbs Road, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312