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Sherman Lawson

West Virginia fiddler Sherman Lawson is chiefly known as the only musician to ever record with the white country blues guitarist Frank Hutchison. Lawson was raised in West Virginia where had one uncle who played a chopping thumb-and-finger banjo style, and another who made him a gourd fiddle, which Lawson started to play when he was about 11 years old. In a 1964 interview with Mike Seeger, Lawson recalled that the first tune he learned to play was "What Will We Do With the Baby-O?" He became a carpenter when he got older, got married, and continued playing his fiddle at square dances, much to his new wife's chagrin. Lawson first ran across Hutchison not too long before they ended up recording together for the Okeh label. It was 1928, and Hutchison had for several years been influenced by a black guitarist named Bill Hunt, who reportedly played around the coal camps starting around 1910. Hutchison picked up both his style of slide-guitar playing and much of his song repertoire from Hunt, and it was this material that Lawson recorded with Hutchison when the duo traveled to New York for the recording. Completely lacking in any formal musical knowledge, Hutchison played in such a unique style that anyone accompanying him had to adapt totally, and Lawson was one of the few that was apparently given the chance. The sessions went well, although chances are the two actually pocketed more cash playing music for a large group of Marines they encountered on the train home. After Okeh released some of the sides, gigs developed for the duo, at least throughout the county they lived in. Unlike his boss, Lawson had to keep a day job; his commitment to this employment and lack of flexibility for taking time off led to an end to his involvement with Hutchison. Lawson also lost interest in participating in fiddle contests when the judging started being done by audience members rather than a panel of professional fiddlers, as he felt this encouraged showing-off and horseplay rather than real music. Lawson kept up his abilities on the fiddle, impressing Seeger with his playing at the age of 71. But he didn't return to performing and died a few years later. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Close To Home: Old Time Music From Mike Seeger's Collection, 1952-1967

1. In The Sweet Bye And Bye

2. Tie Your Dog, Sally Gal

3. Banjo Instrumental

4. Lost Train Blues

7. Old Gambling Man

9. Shout Little Lulu

10. He Will Set Your Fields On Fire

12. Going To Lay Down My Burdens

13. John Henry

14. Pretty Fair Damsel

15. It's These Hard Times

17. Jackson Schottische

18. Lone Prairie

19. Molly Put The Kettle On

27. Red Wing

29. Blackberry Blossom

30. Alabama Gals

31. Old Joe Clark

32. Sugar Baby

33. Queen Sally

34. Poor Orphan

37. He Said If You Love Me, Feed My Sheep

38. I Would Not Live Always

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