Owen “Snake” Chapman

Walnut Gap


On this his second Rounder release, “Snake” Chapman offers up a virtual treasure trove totaling thirty-two two-minute (more or less) traditional mountain fiddle tunes. Some of these were traditional tunes that Chapman learned from his father George “Doc” Chapman, or from a number of fiddlers in this fiddle-rich area of Eastern Kentucky near the Big Sandy River. Many of these cuts are tunes Chapman heard only one time on the Grand Old Opry or at fiddle competitions in Pikeville or the surrounding areas. Some are tunes that he made up over the years. Original or not, all these tunes are faithful to the old Appalachian fiddle style that harkens back to early part of the last century.

Chapman definitely has a great ear as well as an incredible memory. He can tell you exactly where he first heard a particular song, sometimes recounting something from as many as fifty-odd years ago. He can also identify different treatments of it as to who did it, which way they played it, and when they did it. There’s almost as many treatments of some of these songs as there were fiddlers to play them, and “Snake Chapman” can tell you about the nuances of each version.

Chapman ran in some pretty impressive circles in the world of old-time fiddle playing, counting none other than the late-great Kenny Baker of Jenkins, KY (Bill Monroe’s favorite) amongst his peers and influences. Arthur Smith is another. In this release, as in his previous Rounder offering, Chapman, of Canada, KY, is joined by long-time friends Paul Smith on banjo and guitar, and Bert Hatfield on guitar, both of nearby Hardy, KY, as well as Roger Cooper on guitar. A great record if you like any of the old-time Appalachian music. If you are not familiar with this regional music, read the extensive liner notes first. They’ll give you a good background so you can better understand some of the references.

Rounder Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140; http://www.rounder.com

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