Free Dirt Records
Duet albums are great litmus tests. There are no other musicians to hide behind or lean upon, and the ability of the two players to mesh, intertwine, and musically complement each other is on full display.
In the case of this pairing of banjoist Allison de Groot and fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves, their well-honed synergy as musical partners is only part of what makes this fine old-time music project worth listening to. They also bring a fresh young energy to traditional material while still making it sound old and timeless. Plus, they’ve avoided covering warhorses in favor of finding mostly traditional material that hasn’t been overdone.
At the heart of this recording is the classic interplay of fiddle and banjo. There’s plenty of that here, ranging from uptempo numbers such as “Melinda” and “Cuckoo’s Nest” to the trick fiddling of “Farewell Whiskey” to mid-tempo pieces like “Wabash Blues,” Judy Hyman’s tune “Dry,” and “Green Valley Waltz,” which serves as the album’s coda.
The vocals are effective and varied, including Hargreaves’ take on Alice Gerrard’s “Beaufort County Jail” and a fun old piece from the Poplin Family called “I Don’t Want To Get Married.” It’s a shame that Hargreaves and de Groot don’t harmonize more on the album, because when they do, it results in a nice version of the Blue Sky Boys’ “Who Wouldn’t Be Lonely.”
Liner notes are exactly what one would want, with extensive attributions to their sources and backstories, and tunings for banjoists and five-string cross-tuned fiddlers alike. This is a wonderful CD, featuring inspired, energetic, and heartfelt playing that brings old music to life again in the best possible way. (Free Dirt Records, P.O. Box 60015, Washington, DC 20039, www.freedirt.net.)HK