When I Get My New House Done: Western North Carolina Fiddle Tunes and Songs is a collection of 26 songs by Swannanoa fiddler Marcus Martin. An excellent anthology of “rare and unreleased […] field recordings” from Martin—whose influence can still be heard throughout old time and country music—this album was a collaborative effort between NC Folk and the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC Chapel Hill.
When I Get My New House Done is a combination of well-known fiddle tunes—particularly excellent versions of “John Henry” on banjo and “Cumberland Gap”—and rarer selections, such as “Jenny Run Away in the Mud in the Night,” whose authorship is credited to Martin. Especially notable is the variety of cross-tunings of which Martin makes use, which musician David Bragger notes as “a mysterious beautiful sound to behold, especially in a modern fiddle culture dominated by bluegrass violin.” He peppers reels and dance tunes with drones and hums, sometimes tuning his fiddle down more than a full octave to coaxing strange and beautiful sounds.
The liner notes provide a solid biography of Martin, but what really shines through are his grandson Wayne Martin’s notes on each of this collection’s 26 songs. Each entry is a short paragraph that provides the social, geographic, and musical context for each particular tune. Ultimately, fans can see a more thorough and instructive backdrop for how each song came to be, and how it entered Martin’s repertoire.