Cracker Barrel “Old Time Barn Dance” Music CD Review

Contributed by: Jack Metzger

The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain, based in Lebanon, Tennessee, is well know for the “homespun” atmosphere in each of its “old country store” locations. Cracker Barrel strives for a southern rural atmosphere with rustic wood interiors and plenty of old-fashioned advertisements for long-gone companies and products hanging on the walls. The food is good and the appeal seems to be universal since each time I’ve dined at the Henrietta, NY store I have found myself in the company of a very diverse community of fellow diners. On each visit to a Cracker Barrel store, anywhere, I also always take time to peruse the country music kiosk near the front entrance. There, I have found a number of music CDs which feature collections of old-time fiddle music played in the FOG style. Being commercial CDs selling for around $15, the various instruments (always played by a stellar line-up of bluegrass & old-time musicians) take turns with the melody instead of using the everybody-in, 3-times-and-out arrangements that suit FOG.

One of my favorites is the “Old Time Barndance” CD. The fiddlin’ of Stuart Duncan and Aubrey Haynie is really the “gold standard” for taste, timing and smooth-but-lively playing. Guitarists Mark Howard and David Grier play in the Tony Rice and Doc Watson styles, respectively, but always mange to do justice to these old standards. Mike Compton contributes the mandolin playing and should be an inspiration to all of us mandolinists. The banjo playing of Scott Vestal is positive proof that the instrument can fit in with fiddle tunes beautifully. Mike Bub and Dennis Crouch are both solid on acoustic bass.

You’ll recognize the “C part” in Ragtime Annie and the D to A key change late in Faded Love. Listen for the interesting minor chord slipped in at various places on Maidens Prayer. Of course, Flop-Eared Mule, Soldiers Joy, Red Wing, St. Anne’s Reel and Angelina Baker are all popular FOG tunes.

Highly recommended! The 14 tunes are listed below in the order in which they appear on the CD:

1. Dixie Hoedown – G 8. Faded Love – D/A
2. Ragtime Annie – D 9. Red Wing – G
3. Flop-Eared Mule – A/D 10. Hunting for the Buffalo – Em
4. Maidens Prayer – A 11. Sally Goodin – A
5. Soldiers Joy – D 12. St. Anne’s Reel – D
6. Tallahassee – A 13. Whitehorse Breakdown – G
7. Farewell Blues – C 14. Angelina Baker – D