Tree Frog Music, No Number
Bruce Molsky has become known as one of the world’s great traditional fiddlers. He is also proficient on banjo, guitar, and vocals. He’s made his name performing solo and in many bands and configurations. His newest band, which he says he is focusing on now, has Allison de Groot on banjo and Stash Wyslouch on guitar. All three sing as well. Allison is also a member of The Goodbye Girls, and Stash may be familiar to some from the Deadly Gentlemen.
The opening number “Across The Plains Of Illinois” was learned from the late Garry Harrison and his daughter Genevieve Koester. It begins with Bruce’s singing and fiddling in the foreground, but the band sound gradually emerges and Stash joins in on harmony. Bruce has recorded the second piece previously, Missourian Art Galbraith’s very crooked and very lovely “The Flowers Of Edinburg.” Here, it gets the full band treatment in a setting borrowed from Mike Bryant. The third cut is John Salyer’s unusual and stirring version of “Barlow Knife.” “Between The Wars” is Billy Bragg’s angry lament on the mistreatment of working people by their government. Next is a medley of West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter’s “Granddad’s Favorite” with Tennessee fiddler Eldia Barbee’s “Flatwoods.” “The Dreary Black Hills” is an a cappella duet by Bruce and Stash which comes from John Lomax’s Cowboy Songs.
When European settlers arrived in Canada, there were many marriages with indigenous people. Their culturally mixed offspring are called Métis, and they developed a distinctive fiddling style, especially in the Western prairies. The “Métis Set” includes “The Grey Owl,” “The Girl I Left Behind,” and “The Old Reel Of Eight.” “Free A Little Bird” comes from Dykes’ Magic City Trio. The one original tune is Bruce’s “Isambard’s Waltz.” Texas Gladden was the source of “Old Kimball.” “Down The Road Somewhere” is a raggy tune from Texas via Eck Robertson as well as the Massey Family. “The Old Jawbone” dates back to the mid-nineteenth century and is an old-time standard. “Pateroller Tune” comes from the Tennessee African-American trio of Murphy Gribble, John Lusk, and Albert York.
These are three superb musicians at the height of their skills, and this debut CD certainly displays their talents effectively. Each tune and song is meticulously arranged and performed. What higher praise can there be than that? (Tree Frog Music, P.O. Box 729, Beacon, NY 12508, www.mountaindrifters.com.)SAG