Ian McCamy - fiddle and vocals
R. Crumb - guitar and vocals
Ilan Moss - banjo
Stephen Harrison - bass
What many people may not know is that R. Crumb is a fanatical collector of 78RPM records, including an amazing selection of early Old-Time music 78s. Fiddler Ian McCamy met R. Crumb in France (where they both now live) and started playing music together, drawing on Crumb’s 78 collection for inspiration. On this album they tear into some of their favorites, mostly traditional American fiddle music, some well known, some very obscure. This is heartfelt, joyous music played with respect for the ancient tones found within the grooves of those old 78s. 17 selections, with complete notes / background on each song.
From the liner notes:
Why I’m On This Record
When Ian McCamy asked me if I’d be willing to record with him, I readily agreed. I had played with these guys occasionally over the years and had genuinely enjoyed it. Sure, they could’ve gotten any number of accompanists, as good as or better than me, and it’s entirely likely that he asked me because I’m a famous artist and perhaps my name would help sell some CDs. I have no problem with that. I derive great pleasure in playing this old-time music and in fact I feel honored to record with this band! It’s a thrill to play a part in making this music, providing some rhythmic backup for them. Old-time music is very democratic that way. You don’t need to be a professional musician or a virtuoso to participate. This kind of music is open to anyone with a halfway musical ear. This openness is what gives it its heart, and keeps it from becoming too cerebral. Music is meant to be a joyful, communal experience. Being a graphic artist is a lonely occupation. Playing music for me is the best kind of social recreation there is! — R. Crumb
1. Home! Sweet Home!
2. Goodbye Booze
3. The Mineola Rag
4. Old Molly Hare
5. There's More Pretty Girls Than One
6. Take Me Back to Georgia
7. The Monroe County Quickstep
8. The Dill Pickle Rag
9. Saint Jobe's Waltz
10. Billy in the Lowground
11. Drunken Hiccups
12. Buffalo Gals Medley
13. The Pig Ankle Strut
14. Sail Away Ladies, Sail Away
15. Quebec Quickstep
16. Ragtime Annie
17. Walk Along John to Kansas
"There’s More Pretty Girls Than One is a collection of old time fiddle and banjo tunes played and recorded with a style that makes them seem like a box of old 78 rpm records you might come across in grandpa’s attic, or if you’ve been lucky enough to have been present at a back porch jam session back in the days before TV and the internet demanded so much of our spare time.
Robert Crumb’s vocals may seem rather pedestrian, although they lend period flavor, but his musicianship is superb. The combination has a quirkiness that seems in character with the art and cartoons at the root of his fame. This recording offers insight into an era where musical tradition was more a folk art passed from hand to hand, much more diverse and spontaneous in nature. The early period of the recording industry, from which they draw their inspiration, was more about documenting an already-in-place tradition, rather than in influencing its direction. The excellent musicianship of these four ex-patriots and their long appreciation for the period’s music enables them to bring to life the era of the recordings of which the four are avid collectors.
The album starts off with a superb rendition of “Home Sweet Home” that sets the stage for what one of the performers, Ilan Moss, describes in the liner notes as: “Four Melancholic expats, nostalgic for the music of a period they never lived and homesick for an America or England that they were born too late to have seen.” R. Crumb plays tenor banjo and whistles in accompaniment with Ian McCamy’s fine fiddle work and Ilan Moss’s 5 string banjo. Stephen Harrison plays piano on this track. The cut has all the nuance and character of an old-time barn dance. The tracks to come feature the four swapping off on various acoustic instruments and playing with equal proficiency on each.
There are 17 cuts here: traditional tunes like the title track and “Billy in The Low Ground,” “Sail Away Ladies,” “Old Molly Hare,” and “Mineola Rag,” which have been the mainstay of barn dances, spontaneous back porch jam and fiddle sessions since grandpappy’s grandpappy was in knee britches. However there are a few rarities, that even grandpappy might not recall, like the “The Pig Ankle Rag” and “The Dill Pickle Rag.” There’s also a tune called “Saint Jobe’s Waltz,” with its haunting fiddle flourishes styled after “Red” Steely of the Redheaded Fiddlers, a group from Dallas, Texas, who recorded on the Brunswick label, which makes a strong case for the creative diversity of the pre-technology era.
This album, besides its documentary value is altogether delight to the ear, nothing fancy, just some fine pickin’ and old tunes as comforting as corn bread and bean soup on a winter’s evening."
-H. Steven Patton, Driftwood Magazine
"Those who saw the film Crumb might recall that cartoonist and musician Robert Crumb has a huge collection of old 78s in his house in southern France. Crumb’s recordings served as the inspiration for this band of English and American expatriates in France. Crumb also did the artwork for the CD in addition to whistling on “Home Sweet Home!,” playing guitar and tenor banjo, and doing a lot of the singing. Ian McCamy is the fiddler and he also sings, Ilan Moss plays five-string banjo and fiddle, and Stephen Harrison plays piano, bass, and guitar.
Some of the sources cited in the liner notes are Charlie Poole (“Goodbye Booze”), the East Texas Serenaders (“Mineola Rag”), Clayton McMichen and Riley Puckett (“Old Molly Hare”), and Leonard Rutherford, Lowe Stokes, Gus Cannon, Uncle Dave Macon, Jean Carignan, and Eck Robertson. The only tune learned directly from other players is “Walk Along John To Kansas.” The oldest source I know for that is the 1943 recording of Arizona fiddler K.C. Karchner who said it “came from the South.” The band plays it with two fiddles.
The sources give an idea of the breadth of the material and of old-time music itself: rags, a waltz (“Saint Jobe’s”), two quicksteps, one nicely crooked tune from Kentucky (“Monroe County”) and one from Quebec, which is actually a waltz, too. The 17 tunes and songs are all well-played and fun to listen to because the musicians were obviously having fun themselves. There are, indeed, more pretty girls than one, and three of them are all over the fiddler on the CD cover. This is a very nice collection of tunes and songs which should give old-time music lovers much enjoyment. (Arhoolie Records, 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530, www.arhoolie.com.)"
-SAG, Bluegrass Unlimited
Folks who like idiosyncratic, creaky old-timey melodies, squeaky violins and geezerly vocals will find a lot to cheer about in this loopy, eclectic band. Anchored by fiddler Ian McCamy -- an American expat living in France -- the Melody Sheiks also features cartoonist Robert Crumb, who is renowned in old-timey circles as an uber-collector of rare 78s, and has helped McCamy explore various styles of antique music from the dawn of the recording era. In previous collaborations such as Les Primitifs Du Futur, they've jammed on French musette, and here they plow into ragged, rootsy American mountain music with a hint of jug band blues. It's fun stuff, unruly and odd, as it ought to be, and should appeal to fans of Crumb's old compatriots, the Cheap Suit Serenaders. Give her a whirl!
-DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue Guide To Country Music