DALE ANN BRADLEY
DON’T TURN YOUR BACK
7 4511 2
It should be no secret to anyone who listens, Dale Ann Bradley’s voice possesses a rare combination of power and tenderness that few in any genre can lay claim to. “Don’t Turn Your Back” puts this voice on full display proving why she has been voted the IBMA’s Female Vocalist Of The Year for the past three years.
Drawing from a who’s who of great songwriters, the album pulls from several genres, but doesn’t sound disparate in the capable hands of both vocalist and band. Louisa Branscomb contributes three songs, including the title track (which speaks of moving forward even when faced with adversity), “Ghost Bound Train” (cowritten with Bradley), and “Will I Be Good Enough,” one of the albums standout tracks with its spoken thoughts that cross every parent’s mind.
From the world of country music, Bradley pulls the Al Anderson-penned “The Last Thing On My Mind” and A.P. Carter’s “Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room,” giving both a great bluegrass spin. From the world of rock-and-roll, she gives a similar spin to Fleetwood Mac’s “Over My Head” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” The album’s final track, “Music City Queen,” also cowritten by Bradley and Branscomb, is a beautiful song that tells the story of Bradley and countless others who have chased a dream down the Cumberland River.
Bradley’s voice is lifted and pressed forward by the ringers in the studio: Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Mike Bub on bass, Gena Britt Tew on banjo, Tim Laughlin on mandolin, and Alison Brown on banjo (as well as the album’s producer). Harmony vocals are supplied by Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, Steve Gulley, and Claire Lynch. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.) CEB
KEEP THE LIGHT ON
Tony Trischka’s 1983 album, “A Robot Plane Flies Over Arkansas” (Rounder Records)—one of the pinnacles of newgrass music—is an instrumental tour de force. However, a brief vocal track, “John’s Waltz To The Miller,” pops up before the albums closing cut, its direct, simple melody providing a lilting respite before the albums final finger-twister. What elevates the tune (a Trischka/Wyland original) from simply pretty to profoundly beautiful is the voice that delivers it, belonging to rhythm guitarist Dede Wyland.
Wyland’s best known for her tenure in Trischka’s 1980s newgrass band, Skyline, and before that, the Milwaukee-based Grass, Food and Lodging. After Skyline, she concentrated on teaching, though whenever she’s turned up as a guest or for the occasional showcase, it’s served to remind listeners that Wyland remains among the most affecting, and downright beautiful voices to ever glide atop banjos and mandolins.
Yet, since leaving Skyline in the 1980s…poof! At least in the public arena, Wyland seemed to disappear. A somewhat under-the-radar 1998 EP, “Everything That Glitters,” did little to raise her profile, but “Keep The Light On” should (not to say “will”), because this is a great album, the disc fans of Wyland’s have been hoping for, these many years. Simply put, Wyland must be heard by all lovers of the female voice in bluegrass.
Carrying over from her EP is banjoist Mike Mumford, joined by Wyatt Rice (guitar), Rickie Simpkins (mandolin and vocal harmonies), and bassist Ronnie Simpkins to form the core band, along with bassist Ira Gitlin (another carry-over from the EP), guitarist Tom McLaughlin, and fiddler Darol Anger, each making single appearances, and guest harmonizers Randy Barrett, Dudley Connell, Fred Travers, and David McLaughlin.
The David Via title track, the re-recorded “Everything That Glitters,” Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s “Devoted To You,” Miller/Britt’s waltzing-then-driving yodeler “Chime Bells;” 11 cuts and 11 winners, each played with crisp, driving virtuosity. The Stanleys’ “The Memory Of Your Smile” should satisfy lovers of the high lonesome sound, with its haunting, minor-tinged chorus both smooth and gritty. Closing the disc is a gorgeous new recording of “John’s Waltz To The Miller.” In a sensible world, this recording would install the tune in the realm of modern bluegrass standards. Let’s hope. (Patuxent Music, P.O. Box 572, Rockville, MD 20848. www.pxrec.com.) DR
KENNY RAY HORTON
A CANARY’S SONG
Fader 4 Records
The name Kenny Ray Horton may not be easily recognizable, but that may be about to change. This native of Comfort, Mo., has an extensive background in both country and bluegrass music and has written material for such noted artists as Kenny Rogers. In 2008, he became the lead singer of the U.S. Navy’s bluegrass band, Country Current, and only the fourth person in the band’s 36 year history to hold that position.
These 12 superlative tracks highlight Kenny’s considerable vocal and songwriting talents. Joining him are Country Current bandmates, Keith Arneson (banjo), Pat White (fiddle and vocals), and Jeremy Middleton (bass and vocals). Other supporting musicians include Mike Auldridge (resonator guitar) and Darren Beachley (background vocals). Most of the titles were either written or co-written by Kenny. One exception is the title song which was co-authored by Garth Brooks and inspired by the practice of miners taking canaries into the mines as they dug for coal (as long as the canaries were singing, the miners knew the air was safe to breathe). Another is the humorous and fast-paced “Papa Come Quick” (“Jody and Chico”).
Kenny is at his best, however, performing his own material including “Horses You Can’t Tame,” “Mailpouch Chew,” “Wherever You Are,” and “Grateful.” Also featured is the Pat White instrumental, “S.O.S.” This album is a pleasant surprise and one of the more dynamic collections of original bluegrass music this year. Highly recommended! (Fader 4 Music, P.O. Box 251, Point of Rocks, MD 21777.) LM
Sugar Hill Records
In a way, “Almost Live” is a retrospective look at a career not even halfway accomplished. Its ten songs are essentially reunions between Bryan Sutton and the friends and bands with which he has played or still plays. For example, Sutton subbed with the Bluegrass Sessions group on their tour a few years ago, so Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Stuart Duncan, Jerry Douglas, and Mark Schatz return the favor by playing here on his original instrumental “Morning Top.” Sutton played on Chris Thile’s “How To Grow A Woman From The Ground” with Thile, Gabe Witcher, Noam Pikelny, and Gary Garrison, so they back him on another original, “Big Island Hornpipe.” He also did several shows with Hot Rize, leading to two cuts here, “Church Street Blues” and “Kitchen Girl.” Other regular and semiregular gigs, along with session work, account for his duets and quartets that fill the remaining six tracks.
Indisputably good are the two numbers Sutton does with Hot Rize. Those tracks have a relaxed, offhand feel that makes them highly attractive, especially the gently propulsive cover of Norman Blake’s “Church Street Blues.” In a sense, they breathe new life into a tune that doesn’t need new life. Also indisputably good is “Le Pont De La Moustache,” a Django-style original that recalls the swing tunes Sutton included on his “Ready To Go” album. Session mate Aubrey Haynie reprises his Stephane Grappelli role and is joined by Crouch and accordianist Jeff Taylor for about five minutes of delightful gypsy jazz. Good things can also be said of the Celtic-tinged waltz duet with Russ Barenberg, the clawhammerdriven “Wonder Valley Gals,” and the beauty of the spare “Loretta’s Waltz.”
In fact, good things can be said of all the tracks because it’s a good album. Perhaps it is not as good as Sutton’s earlier “Ready To Go”—an album that had greater diversity and slightly stronger material—but, it’s an album worthy of repeated airings. (Sugar Hill Records, P.O. Box 120897, Nashville, TN 37212 www.sugarhillrecords.com. BW
The word in the music scene today is, “Anybody can make a record these days.” The theory being that it’s fairly easy to record and create a CD or mp3 in these technologically advanced times. The fact is, however, that even back in the day, there were ways for unsigned bands to put together a vinyl album or produce a cassette tape with a small company or on their own. There have been many good recordings made in this fashion over the years, as well as some inferior product that is amateur sounding at best. The debut album “Sweet Virginia” by Blu’ Lonesum’ is an example of the former.
In bluegrass music, in my opinion, the key to a small label or self-produced recording is the vocals. Mediocre instrumentation is one thing, but bad or mediocre vocals can be brutal. Thankfully, the lead and harmony singing on “Sweet Virginia” is good and solid. Blu’ Lonesum’ is made up of J.R. Dunbar on guitar, Steve Roach on banjo, Jody Lambert on bass and vocals, Travis Fitzgerald on mandolin and vocals, and Mike Lambert on guitar and vocals. Another positive aspect of this traditional bluegrass project is the sweet fiddle work provided throughout by guest Doug Bartlett, a bluegrass veteran who’s worked with the Lonesome River Band and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, among others.
There is standard bluegrass fare on here, but thankfully not the same old songs one often finds. The standout cuts include “Carolina Morning,” “Keen’s Mountain Prison,” and “Then I’ll Stop Calling Your Name.” The album also offers up some good original songs including the excellent title cut, written by Jody Lambert, and a new instrumental written by Roach called “Bull Rider.” (J.R. Dunbar, 500 E. Gretna Rd., Gretna, VA 24557, myspace.com/blulonesum.) DH
HILLS OF HOME
Papa Leo Records
Constant Change is fourth generation bluegrass from the fertile central North Carolina scene. The members play bluegrass like they grew up with it, because they did. Selfdescribed “new traditionalists,” the band’s roots are sufficiently powerful that IBMA Hall Of Honor member Curly Seckler selected them to back him up on a May 2009 public television performance. Energetic and engaging, “Hills Of Home” is the fourth album in seven years from Constant Change.
The members come from an area about an hour (all in different directions) from Raleigh, which certainly does not resemble the mountains on the CD cover. The group solidified in the fall of 2005 when mandolinist and baritone Daniel Aldridge rejoined older brother Brian on banjo, lead and tenor vocals, and some lead guitar. The band also includes Dan Wells (guitar and vocals), a veteran of the James King Band and Carolina Road, and founder Clifton Preddy, a fiddler and vocalist who has played with more than a dozen bands. Standup bass player and singer Gary Baird joined in 2006 after stints with New Classic Grass and Lynwood Lunsford.
The influence of second generation North Carolina bluegrass artists proves obvious in both the band’s musical style and songwriting credits. A.L. Wood (with whom the Aldridge brothers’ father, Mike, played for many years) composed both the title song and the opener, “Roses And Carnations.” A.L.’s neighbor, Dewey Farmer, wrote “Carolina Sunshine,” while “Bitter Sweet [sic] Memories Of Home” comes from long time Bass Mountain Boys fiddler (again, a Mike Aldridge connection) Johnny Ridge. Wells adds a couple of originals to a pleasingly diverse mix of generally surprising choices.
On “Hills Of Home Constant Change” approaches this wonderful set of material with sharp musicianship, solid arrangements, and strong harmonies. They move easily from ballads and gospel songs to edgy drive. There is not a single weak track among the 14.
The five musicians also share demanding day jobs that limits their performances to two or three times a month, their range to Virginia through Georgia, and their capacity to rehearse and record. Despite their obvious talent and topnotch ability for selecting material, this puts something of a glass ceiling on how far Constant Change can go nationally. I think the members understand and have made their peace with this. Constant Change seems ready to join their heroes in the ranks of outstanding regional bluegrass bands from the Tar Heel State. (Constant Change, 3041 Preddy Rd., Franklinton, NC 27525, www.papaleorecords.com.) AM
HARD TIMES FOR A FIDDLER
Dew Bug Records
Clinch Mountain Boys’ fiddler Dewey Brown starts his sophomore album off in style with “Hard Times Are Here,” a rollicking duet with his boss, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and he’s joined by another legendary voice, Del McCoury, on “Play The Lonesome Sound,” a celebration of the high-lonesome ideal that Brown reaches for, and grabs, on the disc’s other 13 tracks.
Brown wrote those two, as well as the other four vocal tracks on which he earnestly takes the lead vocal: the sinner’s prayer song “Let Me In Your Heart,” “Leslie’s Home Away From Home,” and “Memories,” both full of nostalgia, with the latter paying tribute to …Mama’s fried chicken and Daddy’s good whippins… and “Near My God To Thee,” which features harmony vocals from Nathan Stanley and an altar call recitation from Dr. Ralph.
The other seven tracks on this 35-minute album are fiddle tracks, with Brown giving them the full Stanley-style treatment by staying close to the melody with taste and authority. “A Maiden’s Love” is a mid-tempo, lilting number, contrasting with the quick breakdowns of “It’s Two O’Clock,” “Brown’s Breakdown,” “Black Mountain Blues,” “Walking In My Sleep,” the blistering “Lee Highway Blues,” and the bluesy Curly Ray Cline composition “Lost Train.” The prettiest tunes here are the Brown original “Beaver Dam,” which has a Monroe-style Celtic tinge, and the traditional “Cherokee Shuffle.”
With a house band of Steve Sparkman (banjo), James Alan Shelton (guitar), and Jack Cooke (bass), this effort is a pleasing variant on the Stanley sound. (Dew Bug Records, P.O. Box 411, Graham, NC 27253, www.deweybrown.com.) AKH
THE GIBSON BROTHERS
RING THE BELL
7 4506 2
Brothers Eric and Leigh Gibson continue to ring the bell for the classic sound of brother duets with their first album for Compass Records. This time around, they bring with them a slightly more raw sound to their tight harmonies. In addition to the rawer touch, the group has also added mandolin player Joe Walsh to the group, whose buoyant playing weaves seamlessly throughout the album’s 12 songs. Walsh also contributes to the songwriting duties, cowriting “I Can’t Like Myself” with the Gibson Brothers and bassist Mike Barber. The brothers, themselves, contribute five songs to the project covering love (“Forever Has No End,” “That’s What I Get For Lovin’ You,” “What Can I Do?”) and farming (“Farm Of Yesterday” and “Bottomland”). Songs from writers Joe Newberry, Marshall Warwick, Chet O’Keefe, Shawn Camp, and Paul Kennerly round out the project with themes of family, love, and death.
Recorded with the Gibson Brothers touring band of Eric on banjo, Leigh on guitar, Barber, Walsh, and fiddler Clayton Campbell, the music builds on the solid foundation of previous albums. Stepping outside their comfort zones, the brothers bring in Mike Witcher on resonator guitar throughout (including a rousing solo on “I Can’t Like Myself”) and percussionist Erick Jaskowiak on “Farm Of Yesterday.”
With a renewed interest in the sound of brother duets, the Gibson Brothers should not be overlooked. Their authentic sound is a breath of fresh air in the marketplace. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.) CEB
JESSE McREYNOLDS AND THE VIRGINIA BOYS AND AMANDA
There are few, if any, bluegrass music stars for whom an album titled “Family Harmony” is more appropriate. Yet now, instead of being joined by his late, great brother and duo partner Jim, Jesse McReynolds (lead vocals, mandolin, and guitar) is joined here by three of his grandchildren: Garrett McReynolds (guitar and tenor vocals), Amanda McReynolds (lead and harmony vocals), and Luke McKnight (vocals and mandolin). The result has the feel of a laid-back singin’ session in the family living room, albeit one with Gary Reece and Charlie Cushman playing banjo, Tony Wray and Dave Salyers playing guitar, Kent Blanton on bass, and Jason Carter and Travis Wetzel on fiddle.
Amanda’s harmony vocals add a nice touch throughout the 12-song disc, and she steps out front to deliver a beautiful cover of the Carpenters’ “Top Of The World.” Garrett does an equally fine job on “Live And Let Live.” Jesse handles the rest of the lead vocal duties, breathing life into classics such as “I’m Waiting To Hear You Call Me Darling” and self-penned tracks “Make Hay While The Sun Is Shining,” “Take Time To Smell The Roses,” and “I’m Gonna Put My Life On Hold.”
The finest cut is a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Alberta Bound,” a bouncy tune perfectly suited for a vocal performance from Jesse, recalling his glory days. (J&J Music, P.O. Box 1385, Gallatin, TN 37066, www.jimandjesse.com) AKH
MAC TRAYNHAM & SHAY GARRIOCK
TURKEY IN THE MOUNTAIN
Southern Mountain Melodies
Often, we think of tradition as being handed down from parents to children, and that’s an important form of transmission. It’s also possible to immerse oneself in the traditions of one’s neighbors—what Mac Traynham and Shay Garriock have done for many years in southwest Virginia and western North Carolina. Mac has appeared on four previous CDs; this is their first recorded collaboration, though they have been playing together and learning from older musicians and each other for many years.
On this recording, Shay does most of the fiddling and Mac does all the banjo playing and singing. Mac’s wife, Jenny Traynham, also plays guitar on four cuts.The 22 cuts on this recording have many influences; a few of the betterknown are Hick and Uncle Norm Edmonds, Wade Ward, Uncle Charlie Osborne, Matokie Slaughter, Gaither Carlton, Taylor Kimble, and recordings of Grayson and Whittier.They start with “Jordan Is A Hard Road,” which is a long way from the Uncle Dave Macon song. Shay’s fiddle leaps and dives with the melody, and Mac follows him precisely. Shay likes to tune down a step to FCGD, and he plays a driving “Shooting Creek” in that tuning. Mac sings six songs, including “Joke And Henry.” They picked up a lovely setting of “Bonaparte’s Retreat” from Hick Edmonds; it soars, swoops, and meanders along. “Possum Trot” features twin fiddles.
Most of this CD features wonderful fiddle/banjo duets, but “Big Eyed Rabbit” features solo banjo with Mac singing words he penned to this Matokie Slaughter tune. Mac also does some nice fingerpicking on a few tunes. This CD captures two master oldtime musicians at the top of their form and belongs in your collection. (Shay Garriock, 90 Reeves Rd., Pittsboro, NC 27312, macandshaycd.homestead.com.) SAG
MON RIVER RAMBLERS
Yard Sale Records
The Mon River Ramblers are based in Pittsburgh, Pa., deriving their name from the Monongahela River that flows through the heart of the city. Starting out as a jam band at the University of Pittsburgh, the group currently consists of the Kuzemka brothers, Jim (guitar) and Jeff (banjo), along with Paul Dvorchak (fiddle), Robin Brubaker (bass), and Luke Stamper (fiddle).
The ten-song disc is the band’s recording debut and consists of original material, the lone exception being the gospel standard “No Hiding Place.” The band’s style is highlighted by precise picking, especially on a pair of instrumentals, “Economic Breakdown” and “Catamount.” Their lead and harmony vocals are flawless on numbers such as “One More Night,” “This Old Road,” and “Always Be Blue.” For a first time effort, the Mon River Ramblers have come out swinging with a home run that should open doors of opportunity for the group. (Luke Stamper, 4503 1/2 Corday Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, www.monriverramblers.com) LM
A FEW MORE MILES
“Smooth Kentucky” is a Baltimore/D.C.-area band that includes the area’s finest and up-and-coming young musicians. The band consists of Ed Hough (guitar), B.J. Lazarus (mandolin), David Frieman (bass), Cris Jacobs (guitar), Patrick McAvinue (fiddle), Jordan Tice (guitar), and Dave Geigerich (resonator guitar). Special guests include Mike Munford on banjo and harmony vocal assistance from Sarah and Maria Fitzmaurice, David Markowitz, and Chris Bentley. With the exception of Bob Dylan’s “You Belong To Me,” all of the selections are written or cowritten by Ed and/or B.J.
“Smooth Kentucky” is an Americana acoustic band with bluegrass roots (only one cut on the project has a banjo). However, the grassy feeling is there with topnotch performances by McAvinue, Tice, Giegerich and Lazarus. Ed Hough’s lead vocals are solid, with backing harmony from Lazarus, Jacobs, and the guests. A good, solid production from a young band making their mark in the MidAtlantic. (Smooth Kentucky, 7010 Heathfield Rd., Baltimore, MD 21212, www.smoothkentucky.com.) BF
ON THE EDGE
Sugar Hill Records
Banjoist Chris Pandolfi is among the new crop of young red-hot pickers currently making their marks in bands of fellow firebrands—in his case, the Infamous Stringdusters. All of the Strindusters help out Pandolfi (bassist Travis Book, mandolinist Jesse Cobb, fiddler Jeremy Garrett, resonator guitarist Andy Hall, guitarist Andy Falco), along with former member (and current Punch Brother guitarist) Chris Eldridge, the Matt Flinner Trio (mandolinist Flinner, guitarist Ross Martin, bassist Eric Thorin), fiddler Stuart Duncan, and bassist Byron House.
No standards here (at least not yet), the 11 newgrassy instrumentals coming from Pandolfi’s pen, and as solo projects by banjoists, this one has a somewhat understated vibe—not much flash, even on the fastest numbers, while some of the most affecting moments come courtesy of slower pieces, particularly “Big Bend,” with Flinner’s trio in support and my pick as the most likely future standard. In fact, this album seemed to take a bit longer than usual to sink in, but it did. Tunes such as “Close Encounters” seem to glide along nicely, although with repeated listening, the contours come to sound less predictable even as they become familiar.
The disc’s closer is a duet for banjo and bass, again, somewhat introspective and with an appropriate title, “Melancholy,” encapsulating much of Pandolfi’s style—satisfying to listen to as long as you give it some time and your full attention. (Sugar Hill Records, P.O. Box 120897, Nashville, TN 37212, www.sugarhillrecords.com. DR
BEYOND BASIC BLUEGRASS RHYTHM GUITAR:
BACKUP TECHNIQUES FOR INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED PLAYERS
TAUGHT BY STEVE KAUFMAN
One DVD (1 hr. 40 min.), 23-page PDF booklet on disc, $29.95. (Homespun, P.O. Box 340, Woodstock, NY 12498, www.homespun.com.)
For many people, advanced rhythm guitar is an oxymoron. But, it’s as important a skill and interesting a topic as any in bluegrass. Bluegrass rhythm guitar is often taught at workshops and camps around the country, but there is seldom a course offered on advanced rhythm guitar. This DVD is a welcome addition to the teaching aids available because it dares to go beyond “boom-chuck.”
Steve Kaufman, a three-time winner of the National Flatpicking Championship in Winfield, Kans., adds here to his list of DVDs for Homespun, and I consider it required viewing for anyone interested in adding variety and interest to their rhythm playing. He is a comfortable and engaging teacher, and it’s fun to work through his lessons.
Kaufman teaches rhythm for “Little Rock Getaway,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” “St. Anne’s Reel,” “Kentucky Waltz,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Alabama Jubilee,” and “Sally Goodin,” with topics covered such as eighth-note, quarter-note, and half-note bass runs; treble string runs; seventh, minor, diminished, and augmented chords and shapes; chord substitutions; and much more.There are times where it does seem to go pretty fast, but that’s not really a problem with a DVD.
There’s a lot of juicy stuff here to get into, especially if it’s new to you. I’m planning to study this DVD many more times. Of particular revelation for me was his playing on “Kentucky Waltz,” which includes a nice substitution from the playing of Jethro Burns. All Homespun DVDs are well recorded with superb sound and dual cameras for right and left hands, and this one includes a PDF booklet on the DVD. Recommended. CVS
A GUITAR LESSON WITH DAVID BROMBERG
Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop
Includes tab book, 116 min., $29.95.
(Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, P.O. Box 802, Sparta, NJ 07871, www.guitarvideos.com.)
David Bromberg is a master of fingerpicking-style guitar, having studied in the ’60s with Reverend Gary Davis and other country blues legends. He’s also been playing music on the road since then in various configurations, but mostly with his own band, which includes an eclectic mix of acoustic, electric, and brass instruments.
When I was in high school, I wore out his album “How Late’ll You Play ’Til” and am still a big fan of David’s playing, singing, and repertoire. This is not a bluegrass instructional DVD; there’s no bluegrass anywhere on here; but, it deserves mention in this magazine because bluegrass guitar players and singers have somehow forgotten how much fingerpickingstyle guitar was prominent with bluegrass players such as Earl Scruggs and others. If you love that sound as much as I do, then this is an essential DVD to own and spend time with.
The DVD has Bromberg and his guitar for 116 minutes, teaching nine classic fingerstyle songs, including “Delia,” “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” “Cocaine Blues,” “Sleep Late In The Morning,” and “Buck Dancer’s Choice,” to name a few. “St. Anne’s Reel” is the only flatpicking-style song on here.
David’s a marvelous teacher, anecdotal and specific, and holds your attention throughout with humor and selfdeprecation, just like in his shows. It also includes a tab book for all the songs, and the close-ups and splitscreen video techniques are great aids to learn this deceptively difficult style of guitar playing. The lessons are more for intermediate to advanced players, but beginners can also pick up a lot of good information. And if you’ll excuse me now, I need to learn that cool Reverend Gary Davis contrarymotion lick. Highly recommend. CVS
FIDDLE FOR THE ABSOLUTE BEGINNER:
GET STARTED THE RIGHT WAY
BY JIM WOOD
20 EASY TUNES FOR THE BEGINNING FIDDLER:
LEARN TO PLAY JAM SESSION FAVORITES
BY JIM WOOD
(Homespun Tapes, P.O. Box 340, Woodstock, NY 12498, www.homespun.com)
Jim Wood is a wellrespected teacher and session man. He is also a columnist for Fiddler Magazine. His credentials should be enough to make one want these DVDs. Although, there are more reasons to seriously consider obtaining these videos. These DVDs are of a set. The first volume introduces the budding fiddler to the instrument. The second two-DVD set expands the number of tunes using the same solid and patient techniques. Both volumes are encouraging and thorough in their approach.
The first DVD begins with relaxing and exercising. There is attention to keeping your wrist loose with proper body alignment. Great attention is given to hold the bow and how to care for and use the bow. There is much about tuning and fiddle setup and using colored tapes to emulate frets.
Then it’s on to the A scale and the first tune, “Cotton Eyed Joe.” Wood breaks the tune down to each note and has the student play the basic shuffle over the scale, then over the tune. There is a great section here where the student is taught how to play backup using graphics to highlight the chord changes and what notes to play. He also demonstrates chopping with the bow and stresses the importance of using a metronome. Then it is on to playing slurs (more than one note on a bow stroke) and two more tunes, “Old Joe Clark” and “Cripple Creek.”
The second DVD set teaches over twenty tunes ranging from “Sweet Betsy From Pike” and “Sweet Hour Of Prayer,” as well as the bedrock fiddle tunes “Soldier’s Joy,” “Southwind,” “Sally Goodin” (in A and G), “Sally Ann,” “Red Wing,” “Arkansas Traveler,” “Down Yonder,” and many more. As with the first volume, Wood’s approach is patient and attentive to the needs of the student fiddler. Tunes are broken down to simple basics, and techniques are described in great detail. You will learn to play in several keys. Jim’s wife, Inge, plays guitar so that you can play along with the DVD and get the feel of playing these tunes with other people.
These DVDs are well worth the investment and will go a long way to get you fiddling. Complete scores for all of the material taught are in PDF format on the DVDs. If there is no fiddle teacher around, this will be a good substitute. If there is, it will help you learn even faster. Either way, you’ll be you headed down the road to becoming a fiddler. RCB
MEL BAY PRESENTS: THE MURPHY METHOD, EASY SONGS FOR BANJO
TAUGHT BY CASEY HENRY
Mel Bay MB22030DVD.
(Mel Bay Publications, #4 Industrial Dr., Pacific, MO 63069, www.melbay.com.)
The Murphy Method is the common sense method of learning, used by many folks who don’t want to be hindered by learning too much music theory, but want to be able to play an instrument. In days gone by, young people watched their elders play and imitated them, often when no one was around. In this case, we are looking at banjo. Casey Henry is an accomplished banjo player and, as it turns out, a very good teacher. There is no tablature used here. Learning is by example and, so, we are patiently shown how each tune is played at speed and then painstakingly slowed down, lick by lick.
Murphy Henry, whom the method is named after, supports her daughter on guitar and vocals, so both leads and backup playing can be demonstrated. The lessons are well-organized and well thoughtout, providing clear shots of both hands and an empirical example of how the banjo interacts with the guitar and vocals. This meshing of banjo and guitar lines is at the heart of traditional bluegrass music.
The focus is on five songs, all of them standards: “Old Home Place,” “NinePound Hammer,” “Salty Dog,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Ballad Of Jed Clampett.” Not only will you learn to play clean, concise versions of these tunes, you will be given patient examples that you can return to, until you get each lick. There is an assumption made that the viewer can already play the basic rolls, knows most of the basic licks, and can string them together. There is a chapter, “CGD Songs” that will help with all of this.
If you want to learn to play banjo, but tablature makes you break out in cold sweats, this DVD will open a lot of doors for you, especially, if you don’t want to get bogged down in that labyrinth called music theory. The Henrys will teach you what you need to know without burying you in gobbledygook. RCB
PARKING LOT PICKER’S SONGBOOK, FIDDLE EDITION
BY GERALD JONES AND DIX BRUCE
Mel Bay MB21662BCD.
(Mel Bay Publications, #4 Industrial Dr., Pacific, MO 63069, www.melbay.com.)
This volume is the latest in the Mel Bay series of Parking Lot Picker’s Songbooks. The Fiddle Edition contains no tab, only lead sheets for each of the songs. A lead sheet provides the melody, chord progression, and words. Whether or not they are the words you know for the songs is another story, but most seem to be in line with conventional versions.
Most of the material is from the public domain with a few evergreens of later years thrown in for good measure. Other features are the pictures of fiddlers throughout the book and some fiddle related material in the introduction. There is enough information in the book to teach someone who does not play fiddle, with a short section describing where the notes are on the fiddle and which finger plays which note on which string. A transposition chart and keys are given for the lower voice and suggestions for keys for higher-pitched voices. As with all of the books in this series, there are notes on how to learn a song. A page dedicated to mandolin chords and double stops is handy for an intermediate player trying to sing the songs with some harmony, but it hardly gets into the depth required for such an endeavor.
Gerald Jones gives some pointers on how to learn to play a song on the fiddle. This book does give you the required information, i.e., the melody and chords. The embellishments and flourishes are not discussed here.This is a great little songbook that could be used by anyone to learn songs. There are notes on the song sources at the end of the book and each song has sources listed at the bottom of each page. The biggest problem with this book is that it does not go into enough depth to teach a parking lot picker to play fiddle breaks on the songs. Without previous experience or some additional help in the form of a teacher or mentor, a student of fiddle could only play the melodies. RCB