Monday, November 03, 2014

The 1971 music of Smoke Dawson finally arrives

This is the story of George "Smoke" Dawson. He first appeared in the very early sixties playing banjo in a trio with fiddler Peter Stampfel and Rob Hunter. He's like a minor character in "Inside Llewyn Davis". Then, according to Stampfel, he "took a fuck ton of speed and came back playing fiddle better than I ever did."

In 1971 somebody got Smoke Dawson in a small studio at Sea Lake, California and recorded him playing seventeen tunes. They pressed 750 copies. God knows what happened to them. They certainly didn't sell. Smoke never became any better known and went off to pursue a number of jobs, including fisherman, computer programmer and wrestler. He's in his late seventies now and has had his share of misfortune.

Anyway, Josh Rosenthal of the Tompkins Square label stumbled upon the 1971 Smoke recording and has put it out. The whole thing runs for less than half an hour. He plays so quick the tunes are over before you know it. It's insanely good. I've played it five times today.

They say that Big Star were a letter sent in 1972 that didn't arrive until the late 80s. Smoke has taken even longer to get here.


  1. Is "[He] took a fuck ton of speed and came back playing fiddle better than I ever did" the new "He met the devil at the crossroads?"

  2. Technically fun, I suppose. But, when it comes to it, isn't it all just somewhat akin to what Frank Zappa used to refer as 'Whee-diddly-diddly' guitar playing, or some of that metal 'tap-on tap-off weeee weeee sraaawaar' stuff?

    I prefer, for example, Swarbrick's take on Drowsy Maggie. Plays like a mad dog with his balls on fire, but still retains some of the soul?

    However, I'm willing to admit it's midweek and raining and I'm just grouchy ...