Some years ago, these five talented musicians embarked on a long-term mission: to capture for posterity a particular strain of old-timey string band music that was often played at fiddler’s conventions back in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a style that the Ramblers themselves have been immersed in for nearly a decade.
In the liner notes and accompanying press material, the Ramblers describe this 22-song collection as “well-rendered fiddle tunes with rock solid backup … (on) familiar and tantalizingly unfamiliar tunes.”
The way this record evolved is every bit as fascinating and entertaining as the music itself. Back in 2014, a nine-hour jam session in the campground at the Mt. Airy Fiddler’s Convention in North Carolina culminated in the formation of this line-up.
Two years later, after a similarly long weekend of jamming at Mt. Airy, the Ramblers immediately rushed into Studio 808a in Floyd, Virginia to capture that jam spirit in a bottle. In 2019, they more or less repeated the process. Now, in 2021, the rest of the world is getting to hear the results.
In a narrow sense, the Ramblers are echoing the music that they first heard at festivals back in the days of yore. And that earlier generation of musicians that the Ramblers picked it up from had, in turn, heard it from some of its original old-time practitioners.
Subtle permutations of more contemporary sounds and attitudes are bound to occur in such multi-generational processes. In the Ramblers’ rendition, Joseph Decosimo (fiddle and vocals) often sets the pace, which is rounded out by Ken Landreth’s propulsive three-fingered banjo picking and underpinned by Jim Collier (mandolin and vocals), Jim Nelson (guitar and vocals) and Joe Dejarnette on base.
From its inception, this string band-style music was meant to be danced to as well as listened to. And in the hands of the Ramblers it remains so.