The Knuckle Knockers are husband and wife Bill Foss (vocals, mandolin, banjo, banjo-mandolin) and Martha Hawthorne (vocals, guitar, banjo), and Karen Celia Heil (vocals, fiddle, guitar).
They are ably assisted by Brendan Doyle and Maxine Gerber, each on banjo, on five cuts.
The CD opens with a lovely version of Samantha Bumgarner’s “Georgia Blues.” Next is “Shipping Port,” a fiddle tune from Johnny Johnson’s String Band. Their version of “Little Black Train” is laid-back but powerful. There are two originals, “Soldier Girl” by Martha, which is a female take on a child lost to war, and “Step In A Hole,” a lively and crooked tune by Karen. They do a nice job with the Carter Family’s “The Cyclone Of Rye Cove” and with the rhythmically complex “Christmas Time In The Morning” from Stephen B. Tucker. “Can’t Feel At Home” is a simple arrangement, but powerfully sung gospel number, also from the Carters. Dee Hicks’s “In The Pines” is quite different from the other slower song of the same name, though they share lyrics. Bill’s rag mandolin is showcased on “Wildcat Rag.” Karen shows her strong fiddling on “Brushy Fork Of John’s Creek” and “Little Bobby,” both from John Salyer and then on “All Night Long” from Burnett and Rutherford. The last of the 16 cuts is “The Hometown Waltz.”
All three sing lead. Each has a different style, and each is excellent. It’s a given that their harmonies are great in all combinations. This is old-time ensemble singing and playing at its best. (The Knuckle Knockers, 8 Putnam St., San Francisco, CA 94110, www.knuckleknockers.com.) SAG