It's about two o'clock in the morning and you've just gotten home from listening to a killer bluegrass band all evening. You flip on the TV to unwind for a few minutes and what do you see but a commercial for "Thirty six best-loved bluegrass fiddle tunes"? "So you don't forget, call before midnight tonight...," it says. In a moment of weakness, you call and place your order. What shows up in your mailbox a few weeks later likely won't be a whole lot different from Fiddle Magic, a production of the Wood Brothers and Glen Duncan.
There's nothing surprising or risky in this collection. Every tune is played excruciatingly correctly, but you won't find any excitement or originality. Overall, there's a nice mix of straight acoustic bluegrass and more country-flavored tunes with drums, keyboard and pedal steel guitar. The western swing tunes - Silver Bell, San Antonio Rose and the Bob Wills medley of Stay All Night, Take Me Back To Tulsa, Cotton-Eyed Joe and Corrine, Corrina - come off the best, as does the nice Cajun medley of Jambalaya, Jole Blon and Bonaparte's Retreat. The bluegrass tunes suffer by comparison, perhaps because bluegrass depends so much on passion and fire, and there's not a trace of it here.
So, what's the point of a recording like this one? My best guess is that it's for the uninitiated. It actually could be sold on late night television, or in the rack at a discount mart. It would make a reasonable gift. The tunes are paced well. You could use them for square dance practice, except that most of the tunes are too short to provide an adequate workout.
There's nothing in particular here to dislike, but there's nothing that a bluegrass fan wouldn't already have in a better version. If you need to give someone a gentle introduction to the old standards of fiddle music, this isn't a bad choice.