thomas fraser the shetlands jimmie rodgers
Thomas Fraser : You and My Old Guitar
Rob Ellen finds explores the work of the Shetland Jimmie Rodgers
Its the 60's/70's and we are on Burra Isle part of The UK's most northern
Island chain of The Shetlands and we are in the company of Thomas Fraser and
"You and My Old Guitar". This is the second release of the lost recordings
of Shetlands yodelling fisherman Thomas Fraser and further proof in a wider
scale, if needed, that this finger of rocky outcrops pointing to the north
pole is our most musical sensitive region.
Until his sad demise in 1978 at the age of 50, due to injuries he sustained
while doing his job as fisherman, Thomas had reared a family and worked a
croft, while pursuing his life's passion of recreating the songs of Jimmie
Rogers (and other country greats, Hank, Lefty etc) as well as writing his
own songs, in the blue yodelling style of the singing brakeman.
Since the release of the first volume "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" Thomas has
become a minor cult, and his charming and remarkably authentic music has
enthralled all who have old timey ears to listen. I had the good fortune of
being able to send it to Texan broadcaster Eddie Russell, to a rave revue
from the influential DJ, and airplay on his Country Eastern West Radio Show.
The cult was born out of the discovery of Thomas's lifes work on reel to
reel tapes in the loft of his cottage, on Burra Isle, and the loving
remastering of Karl Simpson, his grandson. This really is as enchanting a
story and musical project as it is possible to imagine, these recording have
a warmth of experience that could not be reproduced, not with all the
technology the 21st century could offer, this is a look at the pure heart of
a man loving what he is doing and doing it for that love alone.
Thomas Fraser learned this craft, listening to US Forces radio and from the
complete back catalogue of Jimmie Rogers which he ordered form the music shop
in Lerwick. Though Thomas performed, only for himself and his (for its day)
state of the art Bang and Olsen tape recorder, and only when pushed, for
family and friends, I have it on good authority he did one live concert, in
which the story goes, due to intolerable stage fright he never appeared from
behind the curtains and played his set out of sight of the audience from the
wings of the Burra community hall. If this gives you the impression you are
dealing with an unaccomplished amateur, forget it, Fraser's hillbilly guitar
playing (and in fact his fiddling) are of the highest standards, his singing
is astounding and highlighted by the best dam yodelling you will hear this
side of The Pecos (or the other side come to that!!).
What we have here is a unique experience, these are Thomas's own personal
documents of the music he loved, and played for his own appreciation alone.
Lost documents of one mans musical quest. An impressive mimic and musical
clone yes, but what is really important here is that we have a chance to
enjoy a master, devoid of any self promotion, or even the slightest
performance issues, freed from any hint of ego corruption. That's what makes
this a truly rare experience, these wonderful recording are a songster
singing for the sheer joy of hearing his own voice and guitar recreating the
music he loved, imbued with the atmosphere of his own life and times, pure
reflections of in a older time half a world away.
Highlights Blue yodel #1, T for Texas, Carolina Moon, Abilene, Unwanted Sign
Upon My Heart, on which he is joined by his wife on Guitar, Mule Skinner
Blues, Careless Hands, the comprehensive and entertaining sleeve notes will
guide you through the story further, and bring you closer to the music and
the man as you read and listen to the 25 tracks on offer.
As a postscript to this story and indication to the importance of his
unlikely legacy, I have a story of my own. I was doing the sound for Mark
Dean The Yodelling Mix Master at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen and had slipped
a Jimmie Rogers track on for pre gig audience edification, when a young lass
no more that 18 came up to me and asked in a broad Shetland drawl, "Who Ist
dat tyour playin"? I had the presence of mind to say "No its not Thomas
Fraser" and she said without hesitation "Oh Its Chimmie Rodgers den"
It turns out the Burra Isle people have an annual Thomas Fraser day and they
come from far and wide to sing and yodel on Thomas's birthday, I'm going to
make that pilgrimage one of these years. I suggest you buy this album ASAP,
I'm told the first one is nearly out of print, and I believe this will prove
more popular as this story and music spreads around the world.
Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
Version: 6.0.544 / Virus Database: 338 - Release Date: 25/11/03
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]