Tune of the Month
"Smith's Reel" from Jim Hoots
In North America this tune has evolved as Smith's Reel, though in Ireland it is known as Kitty's Wedding. It is a favorite, and for good reason, among fiddlers spanning the whole gamut of regional and stylistic persuasions and has been widely recorded. Vivian Williams has unearthed what may be the oldest printed version, George Saunders' 'New and Scientific Self-Instructing School for the Violin' (Providence, R.I. 1847) in which Mr. Saunders claims credit as the composer. That could be true - or perhaps not. Further research may clarify the claim.
Way down south in Oregon in the nineteen-seventies I frequently enjoyed hearing Jim Hoots' stellar playing of hoedowns, waltzes, rags etc. He had the kind of bounce and lift in his playing that always kept me smiling and tapping my foot. Contest judges must have felt the same way for he had the honor of winning the 1981 National Men's Championship at Weiser, when there was such a thing. Please give a listen to the tune by clicking on 'Listen to the Tune' button below. I apologize for the quality of the recording which I made at a jam ca. 1974, but you should nonetheless be able to appreciate Jim's eminently danceable take in this rendition. It's a good example of what they call the Midwestern hornpipe style, which he absorbed in his Illinois and Missouri upbringing. His relentlessly spot on timing and just the right accent on the beat work well with his “Georgia bow” approach. I've included some suggestions in the first line to indicate a bit of this bowing style - basically, down-up with the occasional three note up bow worked in for phrasing. Try it, you'll like it I'm sure.
Please contact me if you have questions or requests.
Stuart Williams, Music Editor
Updated July 22, 2010