Liner Notes


VRCD 359

Williams & Bray was formed in the mid-1980’s by two couples who have been playing bluegrass and old time pioneer dance music for over 40 years. Harley and Shera Bray came to the Puget Sound area from Illinois. In the early 1960’s, Harley and his brothers Nate and Francis, along with Red Cravens performed as “The Bray Brothers & Red Cravens,” also known as “The Bluegrass Gentlemen,” sometimes with John Hartford as their fiddler. They had a weekly live bluegrass radio show out of Clinton, Illinois. This band had a major influence in the development of bluegrass music, and the recordings they made in that era are still available to bluegrass fans today. Shera performed with Harley in the Midwest, became a skilled bluegrass guitarist and singer, and learned to call square dances.

Phil & Vivian Williams were born and raised in the Puget Sound area and had an extensive upbringing in pioneer music and dance of the region. They started playing bluegrass in 1960 with folks who had moved to the region from North Carolina, and formed the first bluegrass band to perform regularly in the Seattle area. They also became mainstay musicians for the square, contra, and old time dances in the area. Vivian has won many national, international, regional, and local fiddle contests, and is regarded as one of the best traditional dance and bluegrass fiddlers in the West. She and Phil have been in the forefront of documenting the traditional fiddling and pioneer dances of the Pacific Northwest.

This CD is for both dancing and listening. The hoedowns are among the “classics” used for Western style square dancing. Jigs often are used for square dancing in Western Canada and the U.S., and polkas and waltzes are an essential part of a Western country square dance evening. Get on your dancing shoes and set your toes a-tappin’!

1. Dance All Night With a Bottle in Your Hand - One of our favorite Southern hoedowns.

2. Glise de Sherbrooke - A classic French Canadian square dance tune.

3. Old Joe Clark - This familiar American folk song and dance tune dates back at least to the middle of the 19th century.

4. Chinese Breakdown - A well-known old fiddle tune.

5. Jenny Lind Polka - Written in honor of “The Swedish Nightingale,” singer Jenny Lind, in 1846. Often used for the Heel and Toe Polka.

6. Tennessee Grey Eagle - Learned from the playing of Jim Herd, a great old time Missouri fiddler who lived in Eastern Washington.

7. Sugar in the Gourd - A hoedown played in America since before 1830.

8. Sam and Elzie - We learned this tune from Harley’s older brother Wilson, who got it from their father Montie Monroe Bray, an old time fiddler from Illinois.

9. Beethoven’s Favorite Waltz - Learned by Phil from a book of fiddle tunes published in New York around the 1920’s and given to him by legendary Northwest fiddler Joe Pancerzewski.

10. Cheat or Swing - This tune can be traced to 18th century England and France. It was originally called “The Cheat,” which was another name for the dance “Ninepin Reel.”

11. Redwing - Written by American composer Kerry Mills around 1900, this was originally a sentimental song about an Indian maiden’s lost love.

12. Cock of the North - A traditional English jig dating from the 17th century.

13. Leather Britches - The American version of the 18th century Scottish tune “Lord MacDonald’s Reel.”

14. Arkansas Traveler - Written by “Professor Tasso,” an entertainer who traveled along the Ohio River in the early 19th century.

15. Golden Slippers - A very popular song written in 1870 by African American composer James A. Bland that has become a favorite of fiddlers everywhere.

16. Chinky Pin - Over the years this tune has collected dozens of names, including “Too Young to Marry,” “My Love is But A Lassie Yet,” “Buffalo Nickel,” “Fourth of July,” “Leezel,” and the original (and very forgettable) 18th century Scottish name, “Miss Farquharson’s Reel.”

17. Sweet Bunch of Daisies - This waltz goes back at least as far as 1898.

18. Turkey in the Straw - Probably the best-known American fiddle tune, dating from the 1830’s.

Fiddle: Vivian Williams
Banjo: Harley Bray
Mandolin: Phil Williams
Guitar: Shera Bray
Bass: Phil Williams
Engineering: Phil Williams, Harley Bray,
John Watt, at Voyager studio
Cover art: Shera Bray
© 2003 Voyager Recordings

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