The Coming of Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy
Side 1, Track 4 – Travelin’ Mood
Side 1, Track 5 – Chicken Reel
If you think of an album as a small concert, then after the full-band intensity of the first three songs, it was time to take a breath and do some smaller songs that spotlight individual performers.
Jimmie Fadden’s harmonica dominates “Traveling Mood,” a quiet little blues by New Orleans songwriter James Waynes (who recorded the song as Wee Willie Wayne in 1955) that ambles along with mandolin, bass and drums keeping company. The harmonica punctuates the intro and roars back in for two verses worth of solo. The mouth harp is such an integral part of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “sound” that it’s hard to imagine them without it.
Then we kick in with fiddle and banjo on a lighthearted 55-second version of the old-time classic “Chicken Reel.” The guys add chicken bawks and squawks and are clearly having fun. It has the feel more of an outtake, as if they kept recording during a break from the serious business of making an album.
These two tracks have the whimsy of the earlier Dirt Band, but the production is up close and personal, emphasizing the humanity of the musicians having fun. The older recordings seemed more like attempts to recapture the way the ancient songs were first recorded on with a single microphone and everyone standing back. Here, everyone is leaning in.
Sufficiently loosened up, next it was time to get back to business, or, as a band member says before the fiddle intro to “Yukon Railroad,” “You got get that convincing …”