Bob Wills and Texas fiddle music, Bill Monroe, and Matmos

Writing songs seems to be eating my brain right now, but today I traded some books for some cds to feed my head, so maybe my brain will grow back.

My ethnomusicological excavation of where I’m from has led me to one Bob Wills, inventor of Western Swing, of which he has said, “It’s just Texas fiddle music.” (that last link is to a fascinating video from on Texas fiddle competitions that will give you an idea of where I’m from – the better end of it, anyway.) With his band Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, he mixed blues, cowboy ballads, country music, and a little jazz to birth a new genre. In the YouTube videos available, you can see his huge smile and vintage performative emoting – and there’s something about the way he and the lap steel player smile, too…it makes me wonder…nevermind. He’s a really interesting guy, and I’m looking forward to reading more about him and about the Western Swing style. Some of the more interesting stuff I’ve heard so far was on NPR’s All Songs Considered back in October of ’06.

I love his uncharacteristic-for-his-time appreciation of the African-American origins of some of the sounds he used: “He was such a fan of blues singer Bessie Smith that he rode 50 miles on a horse to see her perform live. ‘I don’t know whether they made them up as they moved down the cotton rows or not,’ Wills later said of his black contemporaries to biographer Charles Townsend, ‘but they sang blues you never heard before.”

Another legendary musical innovator I’ve been listening to is Bill Monroe, the inventor of Bluegrass, another interesting mashing together of blues, jazz, country, and old-time music. Worth a listen. I have less to say here because I’ve just really started listening, and I’m trying to learn mandolin currently, so my thoughts aren’t quite verbal yet.

While writing this post I’ve been giving Matmos‘ album The Civil War a listen; I like it so far, especially the first few songs. I wish they used the old instruments along with the electronic experimentation more. Oo! Track 8 just started, and I like this a lot! This is what I wanted out of Matmos.


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