Clinch Mountain Echo

Curly Ray Cline - Smarter Than The Average Idiot

(Tin Ear TE-33010) 1984


Smarter Than The Average Idiot
Rear Cover Side One Side Two

Average Album Rating: 4.67
(Total votes 6)

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This hard to find album, is one of Curly's best. Featuring a few fiddle tunes (Cacklin Hen, Billy In The Low Ground, Down Yonder and Patty On A Turnpike; and a nice instrumental version of Bill Monroe's Kentucky Waltz; the balance is an eclectic mix.

Ralph "now as always, a sideman for Cline's albums" is featured on about half of the numbers, including a ground-breaking performance on triangle and vibra-slap on Down Yonder. Elsewhere, Jack Cooke gets to do a bass solo (Step It Up & Go), and Charlie Sizemore makes a debut performance on banjo (John Henry and Watermelon Hangin' On The Vine).

Charlie Sizemore's witty writing skills, that would later give rise to classics like Alison's Band and No Lawyers In Heaven, is apparent on Just-A-Hangin (a true tale about the demise of one of Curly's beloved hunting dogs) and the title cut Smarter Than The Average Idiot. The former track, with Junior Blankenship on lead vocals, is a pastiche of John Anderson's hit Swingin', which during the band had perfomed with Hook 'n' Beans.[1]

Elsewhere, Curly Ray get's to sing the creepy Fly On The Baby's Nose and Death Came A Creepin' Into My Room.

The album is also notable for featuring Hillard 'Duck' Blankenship, the bands long-standing bus-driver on washboard. John Wright provides a hilarious sleevenotes too.

As far as I can tell, Tin Ear were active from the late seventies to mid eighties, which may explain why this album seems pretty hard to find.

It was recorded in one session on 24th Jan 1984. On the 21st the band had made an appearance at the Hiltons, VA (A.P. Carter store) followed by a 3-day booking at the University Of Chicago, Chicago Folklore Society.

'Bluegrass Unlimited' gave the LP a rather negative review in it's Jan 1985 edition, concluding "I can only recommend this rushed effort to Curly Ray (or Ralph Stanley) completists." This prompted White Oak Records owner & musical historian Hank Edenborn to write a letter to the mag which was published a couple of months later, as Hank recently recalled: "When 'Smarter Than The Average Idiot' came out, it had a generally poor review in BU (they traditionally did not appreciate humor on records, I found) and I wrote a letter to the editor saying that I, for one, really enjoyed it. This may have been in part to help out John Wright, who brainstormed the project, but I did like the LP. Later in the summer, I saw Ralph’s band at Winterhawk or some NY festival, and spoke with Charlie Sizemore and Curly Ray. In the process, I mentioned writing a rebuttal letter, and CRC went 'You! You wrote that letter?!' and he proceeded to pull out his wallet, inside of which was clipping of the letter from the magazine! I was pretty astounded at that."

Hank's letter to the editor, which was published in the Mar 1985 edition, I think sums up the album quite well. "... More than any previous Cline album, the uninhibited enthusiasm of Curly Ray's live performances with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys comes across on record, from old favorites played with vim and vigor by first class musicians, to bizarre (but delightful) new tunes laced with country humor. I recommend this album to anyone who considers enthusiasm for the material to be the little extra ingredient that is missing from so many otherwise excellent records. 'Smarter Than The Average Idiot' has never failed to bring a smile to my face after the worst of days at the 'salt mines', and, in my opinion, that alone makes this album far 'better than the average' bluegrass album."

Track:
Title:
Side One:
(16:18)
1
C(r)acklin' Hen

P.D.
2
Billy In The Low Ground

P.D.
3
Step It Up & Go

??
4
Kentucky Waltz

Bill Monroe
5
Watermelon Hangin' On The Vine

P.D.
6
Just-A-Hangin

Charlie Sizemore
Side Two:
(13:49)
1
Down Yonder

P.D.
2
Smarter Than The Average Idiot

J. Preston / Charlie Sizemore / Curly Ray Cline
3
Patty On The Turnpike

P.D.
4
Death Came A Creepin' In My Room

Curly Ray Cline
5
Fly On The Baby's Nose

Curly Ray Cline
6
John Hardy

P.D.

 


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