'Uncorked' -- A winning CD
J. Mack Clarke
Special to TriCities.Com
Nov 10, 11:16 AM EST
On stage, The Corklickers (Old Time String Band) are absolute fun. I saw them perform at The State Line Bar & Grill in Bristol last month and recently saw them at The BCMA Pickin’ Porch. I didn’t hear the same song twice and everything I heard I wanted to hear again.
The Corklickers have a long history of music beginning in 1976. They’ve performed at the Carter Fold, Chicago Folk Festival, Kent State, and Brandywine Music Festival to name a few stops and have bumped elbows with Hotmud Family, Red Clay Ramblers, White Top Mountain Band, Fat Meat Boys, and so many more the names can fill a page.
The band has been influenced by Tommy Jarrell, Charlie Bowman, Uncle Dave Macon, Ernest Stoneman, Riley Puckett, Charlie Poole, Grandpa Jones, John Carson, and the list rolls on.
When vocalist and claw-hammer-style banjo man Mark Adams lets go with, “I saw Eve and Adam driven from the door. When the apple they was eatin’ from the bushes I was peekin’. I can prove it I’m the man who ate the core.” An audience is inclined to believe him.
Mark and his brother Gil recall learning “Dixie” while they were students at Lincoln Elementary School in Kingsport. They know between three and five verses of the minstrel classic and perform it to the pleasure of audiences wherever they travel. Gil, now playing fiddle, bought his first banjo at Uncle Sam’s in Bristol and grew up with a good tonic of Flat & Scruggs and Bonnie Lou & Buster.
Guitarist Mack Vannoy, with wry humor, tells folks that he has been with the group so long because, “I’m just too sorry to quit.” That humor extends to Mark who explains, “I guess our name comes from when people drank all the whiskey then they licked the cork. Once we had three fiddle players, but we couldn’t tell the worst one of them to leave so they played on.”
Hopefully, the current lineup’s second fiddle man, Rick Palmer, is not the worst one. Palmer seems to always smile when he is sawin’ on the bow, and he tunes his strings to standard, as does Gil.
Stand-up bassist Rick Moore has a day job with AWS, Inc. and likes playing the old tunes because it is different than the usual plate of pop, country, and bluegrass. Moore has blazed several music trails including a stint with Troublesome Hollow.
All the roads traveled and lessons learned by The Corklickers come together in their recent CD, which is titled Uncorked. This CD is an absolute winning addition to a collector’s stack and also pure enjoyment. The 19 songs on Uncorked make up a total of 72 minutes of listening, dancing, and just a tad of ole-time philosophy.
You can kick-up your hills to “Arkansas Traveler” and “Hop High Ladies.” Notes with the CD report that these dance numbers come from influences such as The Skillet Lickers, The Bogtrotters, Wade Ward, and Earl Johnson.
Two songs on Uncorked will be the subject of continuing discussion. How did “Frankie and Johnny” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain” evolve?
The ballad of “Frankie Baker” laments that Frankie was married to Albert (not Johnny), they had two children, and Albert was a gambler not a long-legged guitar picker as sung by pop icons Presley and Cash. The version by The Corklickers tells that Frankie shot Albert with his gun and if his children ever see him it will be in another world.
The other evolving song is “Little Stream of Whiskey.” Listening to “ . . . where handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night, where I’ll never have to work again or even change my socks, and a little stream of whiskey comes flowing down the rocks.” many listeners will recall that the popular version mentioned jails of tin and pink lemonade but not dirty socks and whiskey.
The Corklickers gathered two versions of “I’m the Man That Rode the Mule Around the World” and modified them to fit one high-stepping tune. G. Adams vocal on “From Jerusalem to Jericho” strikes a chord with all who sat through Sunday school as the linear notes say, “With lyrics virtually out of The Book of Luke.”
There’s more sound advice inside “Roll on Buddy” that cautions a younger audience “You wouldn’t roll so slow if you knew what I know.”
Other favorites on Uncorked are “I’m My Own Grandpa,” “The Cat Came Back,” “Fiddler’s Reel,” and “She’s Got the Money, Too.” The first two of these tunes might be considered children’s songs with the last a favorite at weddings.
Hearing The Corklickers live and on disk, I have to refer to something guitar-man Vannoy said. “I like the old roots music. I listened to those 78s from the 1920s and ‘30s, the scratchier the better.”
Now we can listen to that music on Uncorked, and it won’t be scratchy but clear as that little stream over the rocks.
I'm sitting here listening to The Corklickers Uncorked as I type
this. You guys have outdone yourselfs! The music is great ( as always ) and
the CD cover is first class.
> Some comments that were heard from my family members: Snappy little tunes!
Old Time Soul Music! This music makes me happy! and last but not least as we
were listening to "I'm the man that rode the Mule around the World" it was
said that this just might be Old Time Fantasy Music! My favorite instumental
is "Bull at the Wagon". Something about that tune. Fav. vocal might be The
Cat Came Back or Little Stream of Whisky or I'm my own Grandpa.