Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Moonshiner's Dance: A klezmerized, French-Canadian, red-hot Scanda-jazzian, beer-garden polka

"Too jazzy for Brian Rust's American Dance Band Discography, too ethnic for his Jazz Records, and too ambivalent for Dick Spottswood's Ethnic Music on Records, "The Moonshiner's Dance" is both too full and too empty to be made sense of in an ordinary way."

1n 1997, Harry Smith released the "Anthology of American Folk Music" on Smithsonian Folkways. The literal, and for many also the figurative, centerpiece of which is the 1927 recording "The Moonshiner's Dance, Part One." When musician and science journal editor Kurt Gegenhuber first heard Moonshiner's he thought it sounded like like some kind of klezmerized, French-Canadian, red-hot Scanda-jazzian, beer-garden polka. All the Anthology's liner notes said about the tune is that it was recorded by Frank Cloutier and The Victoria Cafe Orchestra and that "The Victoria Cafe Orchestra ... does not appear in any jazz or dance band discography, but is assumed to have been from the Minnesota area." After 9 years obsessing over the anthology and 18 months dedicated to research the history of Moonshiners, Gegenhuber's written a fine essay for Zeek, a A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, detailing the history of the song complete with Prohibition gin-joints, Jewish gangsters, and ethnic novelty orchestras. You can check out Gegenhuber's essay at Zeek and listen to a sound clip on the Smithsonian Folkways site.

No comments: