For more than 20 years, bluegrass the Father of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe, introduced sideman Kenny Baker onstage as “the greatest fiddler in bluegrass music.” Monroe wasn’t exaggerating simply because Baker worked for him, and he recorded over 300 songs with Monroe.
Few musicians have had the impact on bluegrass fiddling as has Baker. He is arguably one of the greatest – some would say “the greatest” – traditional bluegrass fiddlers of our time. Contemporary fiddlers Stuart Duncan, Richard Greene, and Jimmy Campbell have all incorporated much of Baker’s style into their own playing.
His jazzy, swing-like arrangements of traditional numbers, silky smooth long-bow technique, and ability to write original, fresh tunes have made him a favorite on the bluegrass circuit for four decades. Before recording for OMS Records, his long series of solo albums for independent County Records had an immeasurable impact on Bluegrass fiddling. Many of Kenny’s albums were sold at record tables at festivals, and according to historian Charles Wolfe, his records often outsold Monroe’s.
On “Spider Bit the Baby!” Kenny performs 13 fiddle tunes, many either written by himself or co-written with Bill Monroe. At age 76, his intonation and lively playing style remains as powerful and inventive as ever. Instrumental backing is provided by top session artists including mandolinist Aubrey Haney and twin fiddle work by Blaine Sprouse. The end result is another classic fiddle album by this classic fiddle player.
In 1993 he received a National Heritage fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1999 he was elected to the Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.Kenny Baker died in 2011. He will forever be a role model for bluegrass fiddle playing.
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