The Red Squirrel Chasers are composed of Stephanie Coleman, fiddle; Jim Collier, mandolin; Jim Nelson, guitar; and Dedo Norris, bass. They all sing, with the two Jims dividing the lead vocals. They played dances together for about ten years before deciding to combine their interests in old-time music and early bluegrass into this recording. The 16 selections are mostly alternate songs and instrumentals. In the liner notes, they explain they didn’t include a banjo because they wanted “spare melody lines…with a smooth instrumental texture.”
“Shady Grove, My Darling” is from the Prairie Ramblers and showcases Coleman’s powerful fiddling and the brother-duet style of Nelson and Collier. Burl Hammons is the source for “Shakin’ Down The Acorns,” a very Mixolydian paean to fall. The laid-back “Cold Rain And Snow” derives from Obray Ramsay, Dillard Chandler, and Peter Rowan, also the source for “Moonshiner.” “Durang’s Hornpipe,” a name applied to several different tunes, is from Kentucky fiddler Jake Phelps transmitted by Bruce Greene and Chirps Smith. John Ashby is the source of “Jaybird Died With The Whooping Cough” and “Sugar In The Gourd.” “Darling Honey” is yet another tour de force fiddle tune from Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith. “Old Bob” is a great original fiddle tune by the late Garry Harrison. “Squirrel Hunters” was a fife tune moved to the fiddle by John Hartford.
Coleman fiddles everything with both power, subtlety, and rock-solid rhythm and brings out the beauty inherent in these great melodies. Nelson is simply one of the best guitarists playing old-time music these days. Collier’s mandolin adds a simple grace to the music, while Norris’ bass keeps them tightly together. Nelson and Collier have well-matched voices. Coleman adds the high harmony on “Moonshiner,” and Norris does the same on “Run Mountain” and “She’ll Be Comin’ Around The Mountain” from J.E. and Wade Mainer. This recording is thoroughly enjoyable and is highly recommended for lovers of old-time music and of the precursors and early days of bluegrass. (Vigortone Records, 6130 Tennessee Ave. St. Louis, MO 63111, www.vigortonerecords.com.)SAG