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From Abe's to Zollie's Retreat

The acquisition of a new family car has allowed me the luxury of being able to connect my iPod to my car stereo. Instead of cycling through my CDs to quench my old-time thirst, I now have my entire music catalog to satiate my ears.

A couple weeks ago I decided to start at one end and see how long it took to get to the other, going alphabetically by song title. Like I said, I started this little journey a couple weeks ago and have only made it to "Camp Chase." The funny thing is I'm encountering a lot of music I forgot I had.

With digital downloads and the availability of loads of out-of-print music in the "public domain," I have downloaded a lot of old-time material without really listening to all of it. Each time a new tune comes on, I play a game with myself of trying to identify the artist and title. I'm losing that contest. I often find myself thinking, "I didn't know I had this."

As is one of my favorite aspects of old-time music, I'm enjoying all the different versions of tunes I have. Like "Camp Chase," My collection includes versions by French Carpenter, Emory Bailey and Burl Hammons, all of them field recordings.

Each player tells the same general legend of the tune's origin as having won the freedom of a Confederate soldier after playing it during a fiddle contest held at the eponymous prison camp near Columbus, Ohio. Carpenter claims it was his grandfather, Solly Carpenter, who won the jailhouse fiddle contest. Hammons also cites the elder Carpenter as the source. Bailey tells the same story, but doesn't give names. While the origins of the tune are purportedly the same, each fiddler plays it differently.

It's a fascinating ride and full of surprises. Judging by my progress it might take a whole year or more to get through my digital music collection.

Have you ever tried listening to your music collection (digital or analog) from end to end? What surprises did you find? Let me know in the comments ... 

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