Old Willow Tree
The Stefanini family has a long tradition in fiddling. Rafe’s father taught violin in Italy; Rafe’s brother Bruno is a renowned violin maker, and now Rafe, who has become one of the pillars of the old-time community in the United States, is performing with his daughter Clelia. They are backed up by Nikki Lee (Rafe’s wife and Clelia’s mother) on guitar, Carl Jones on mandolin, and Eric Frey on bass and vocals. In addition to fiddling, both Stefaninis sing and play guitar, and Rafe plays banjo.
Rafe and Clelia start with a double-fiddle tour de force on Ed Haley’s powerful and difficult “Poplar Bluff.” Their 13 selections include traditional songs such as “Whiskey Seller,” “I Never Will Marry,” “Elkhorn Ridge,” “The Cowboy Trail,” and “Blues Stay Away From Me.” The fiddle tunes include two medleys of five tunes from the Collins family of Missouri, Oklahoma, and California, Texas fiddler Peter Tumlinson Bell’s “Dusty Miller,” Nebraska great Bob Walters’ “Lady On The Green,” North Carolinian Marcus Martin’s “Shove The Pig’s Foot A Little Bit Further Into The Fire” (note that a “pig’s foot” is a blacksmith’s tool), a medley of tunes from Earl Collins and Lee Triplett, and Missourian Casey Jones’ “Little White Lie.” Rafe and Clelia more than do justice to all these tunes which come from very diverse stylistic and geographical sources.
All this music is highly recommended, but if you enjoy highly expressive double-fiddling, this recording is a somewhat rare treat with two very well-matched fiddlers who know every nuance of each other’s style. One great fiddler is wonderful to listen to, but two who mesh together so seamlessly are to be treasured. (Hearth Music, 14879 6th Ave. NE, Shoreline, WA 98155, www.hearthmusic.com.)SAG