Tommy Jarrel, Benton Flippen, Blind Ed Haley, Clyde Davenport, Earl Collins, Edden Hammons, Melvin Wine, Dennis McGee, Gene Goforth, Roy Wooliver, John Hartford are synonyms for greatness, legends when it comes to old-time fiddle, household names amongst real old-time fiddle folks. David Bragger will be included in this list if not already.
David Bragger is an incredible old-time fiddler and instructor, from the hills. The hills of North Los Angeles. But he is not old at all, just an old soul who has found his place in life.
David Bragger makes his living primarily with teaching fiddle, 7 days per week, when he’s not busy with filming and recording. “Most of my students are worldwide. I don’t actively advertise. The teaching thing started happening word of mouth. The out of state and international crowd started picking up on my instruction through the occasional YouTube videos that I would post.” David’s strength is in teaching bowing. Having taught well over 10,000 lessons, David can pick apart bow patterns, rhythms, bow rocking, and call out bow directions with great ease. David is highly sought after. He’s also the go-to traditional musician that Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin records and tours with for his solo projects.
Big Fancy, which will officially be released on Dec. 5th, 2015, is the realization of a dream project for David Bragger. David has poured much energy and time into producing, recording and archiving great traditional musicians. David and co-producer Rick Hocutt, also a film producer among many other things, have been filming some of the greatest traditional Old Time musicians of our time in David’s home studio, The Old Time Tiki Parlour. “The Old-Time Tiki Parlour is basically ‘my world’. It’s me, it’s my website, it’s my living space and it’s every environment that I use for documentation. It’s the physical and abstract realm of my old-time music obsession. Tikis are old symbols. They mark the boundaries of sacred sites, and to me, old-time music represents a sacred time and place. Tiki is a symbol of adventure and discovery. It is also a symbol of mid-century funky kitsch.” David said. Some of their DVDs have included Old Time Icons like Bruce Molsky, Dan Gellert, Kirk Sutphin, Bertram Levy, Rafe & Clelia Stefanini, Joe Newberry, Val Mindel, David Greely, Suzy & Eric Thompson, Tom & Patrick Sauber, Sausage Grinder and Howard Rains & Tricia Spencer. And many more to come…
Now, it’s time for David to be appreciated in another light, for what he loves to do and for what he is a master at, and that is play the tunes he loves on his favorite instruments. Fortunately for us, David made this record. “This project is something I’ve been pondering for a long time. After years of playing and teaching, I grabbed the fiddle and imagined an album.” David said.
David not only fiddles, he is also a mighty fine claw hammer banjo player, as well as guitar, and on track 21, the last track, “Boating Up Sandy”, David plays a late 19th century pump organ that his grandfather restored and passed down to David. “Gives the tune a very old and circus like feel”. David says.
The following video is an example of David’s experitise in performing and instruction. This song, “Davy, Come On Back and Act Like You Ought To” is track #9 on Big Fancy.
David is accompanied by Christopher Berry- guitar and banjo, Susan Platz , second fiddle, and Tim Riley on Scottish Bagpipes (great moving rendition of “Washington’s March”). Big Fancy is 21 obscure fiddle tunes. The CD jacket is pure folk art. Each track is thoroughly explained complete with the alternate tunings used. I try to avoid cliche like the plague, but this recording is a must have for any fiddle fan, of any fiddle genre.
Over the years I’ve become a moderate collector of Old Time fiddle music. I recognized several tunes on BigFancy, none of which were a note for note rendition. That’s the beauty of Old Time Music, bastardization and the folk process. Tunes change a little from player to player, from year to year, from decade to decade and that’s okay, that’s how it works, that’s how it’s always been. Unlike competitive banjo or guitar, which stays true to the melody the first time through, then embellishes the next time through, then becomes Jazz until you can’t recognize the tune at all, Old Time music stays true to the melody all of the way through, changing only with the mood and memory of each fiddler. Of course, David is spot on with intonation, and all of the mechanics of master class fiddling. You know how you can listen to your favorite genre of music, get all revved about what you are going to hear, then, a few measures into the tune, you realize you weren’t listening? The music didn’t hold you. It is rare for me to listen to an entire album and not have this happen with at least one, sometimes several tunes, even though I am familiar with the artist and love the particular tunes. It just happens. Anyone can succumb to what I refer to as “spiritual monotone”. The spirit is in the heart of the performer, but fails to translate to the listener. David Bragger is a street magician. He filmed and followed street magicians in India, a trip that was loaded with awe and danger, for one, it’s illegal to perform street magic in India. It was after returning to the States that David took up fiddle. I’m not saying David is applying magic to his fiddling. I do not know a thing about sleight of hand, illusion, but I do know it takes a special kind of focus. I know David Bragger’s soul snakes itself out of his core, like a Cobra being charmed from a basket, and this soul does indeed find it’s way to that fiddle bow and that fingerboard. You will have no trouble experiencing this manifestation, especially if you “know how to listen to a fiddle tune”. If you are new to this fascinating trip in music, listen to one song several times in a row. With each listen, you’ll hear something you didn’t hear the previous time. Is the music breathing? Is it sighing? Is it screaming? Is is telling you to relax? Yes. With the fiddle, it’s in the bow, and David Bragger is the bow man of our time and by that, I mean David has studied with some of the above mentioned masters. Watch the video again and pay close attention to Davids bow arm. It’s funky phenomenal. I encourage you to give Big Fancy a spin. I encourage you to find David’s fiddle lessons on YouTube and watch in amazement as he plays a tune, then picks it apart, telling you each bow direction as he plays. It’s not all back and forth. It’s technique, and like Jazz, it is not random and happenstance. Bowing done right is calculated. Again, the official release date is Dec. 5th, 2015, but you can own Big Fancy right now, by visiting oldtimetikiparlour.com.
Ernie Hill is a free-lance writer from the southern Arkansaw Ozarks, and a wanna-be Old Time Fiddler. www.wordsofernest.com