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J.P. Fraley

Considered one of the deans of Kentucky country fiddling, this musician has managed to keep busy well into his senior years, keeping up a schedule of bluegrass festivals, fiddle conventions, and traditional music workshops that might wear out a younger man. He learned music from his father and passed it on to his daughter Danielle Fraley, who has backed him up both onstage and in the studio as a member of the Fraley Band. Although he started working in the Kentucky mines as a young man, he managed to be promoted well above the level of a miner of the type whose hard life frequently smears the pages of many an old-time musician's life story with coal dust. Fraley became a salesman for coal mining equipment, a job which took him not only all over Appalachia but throughout the world, to countries such as Italy, Brazil, and Norway. It sparked an interest in many different types of musical cultures which has expressed itself in the diversity of his fiddling as well as in actual meetings with players such as the Irish fiddler Ali Bain. Fraley began playing as a young boy, and remembers that his first gig was sometime in the early '30s. Senior player Mark Dixon carried him through the woods to play music in exchange for a pie supper. Despite these early beginnings, he didn't really perform on a professional basis or begin recording until the '70s. Since that time he has been a huge influence on fiddlers as a teacher as well as player. Several published collections of fiddle pieces and instruction manuals have a strong focus on the Fraley style. He also works hard to provide opportunities for his genre of musicians, organizing a regular series of festivals such as J.P. Fraley's Mountain Music Festival in Olive Hill, KY. His 1974 album Wild Rose of the Mountain was released on Rounder and was greeted with rave reviews. It featured him in fiddle duets with his wife Annadeene, who passed away in the '90s. The recording was re-released 20 years later as a compact disc with additional tracks featuring Fraley in duo with his daughter on guitar. Another of Fraley's albums with Annadeene was entitled Maysville. In 2000 he released a recording of twin fiddling with Betty Vornbrock, entitled Side By Side and featuring a familiar Fraley frolic of waltzes, two-steps, and other old-time numbers. With banjoist Bert Gavin, Fraley was featured on the Rounder anthology of Kentucky Old Time Banjo. He also accompanies cowboy singer Glenn Ohrin at concerts and on the album A Cowboy's Life, also released on Rounder. Fraley received the Appalachian Treasure Award from Morehead State University in 1998. His other talents include a legendary status as a teller of tall tales, leading most musicians to add "He's a heckuva storyteller!" to whatever florid praise has already been lavished on the man's fiddling. He also performs on cello in the Fraley Band, which performs country numbers and originals influenced by songwriters such as Bob Dylan. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Harlan County USA: Songs Of The Coal Miner's Struggle

1. Coal Tattoo

2. Shut Up In The Mines Of Coal Creek

3. Come All You Coal Miners

4. Blue Diamond Mines

5. Yablonski Murder

6. Last Train From Poor Valley

7. Black Lung

8. Dark As A Dungeon

9. Trouble Among The Yearlings

10. Lawrence Jones

11. Coal Black Mining Blues

12. Coal Miner's Grave

13. Death Of Harry Simms

14. Mannington Mine Disaster

15. Cruel Willie

16. Hard Working Miner

17. Dream Of A Miner's Child

18. And Am I Born To Die?

19. Clay County Miner

20. One Morning In May

21. Which Side Are You On?

22. They'll Never Keep Us Down

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Track List: Mountain Journey: Stars Of Old Time Music

1. Wayfaring Pilgrim

3. Cripple Creek

5. And Am I Born To Die

9. Sweet Sunny South

11. Pretty Bird

12. Cruel Willie

14. Bully Of The Town

15. Two Soldiers

16. Bonaparte's Retreat

18. If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again

20. My Love Lies In The Ground

21. My Epitaph

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