RED HEN STRINGBAND – Birds of a Feather

RED HEN STRINGBAND

Birds of a Feather

 

Martin Said To His Man – Off The Griddle –
Cluck Old Hen – Little Bird – Down In Mississippi – Blue Yodel #3 –
Walnut Gap – Do You Love An Apple – Jute Mill Song – Free Little Bird –
Farewell Trion – Ishikawa – Colours – Smithland Farm
 
Wow, what a treat to get this CD to review while I’m
sitting in an ice-storm in Texas waiting for the weather to clear. For
all practical purposes this intriguing project definitely has cleared my
mind.  It’s also very timely, the third song on this remarkable
adventure is “Cluck Old Hen” recently the name of Ricky Skagg’s newest
CD release.  He however spells it a little differently “Cluck Ol’ Hen.” 
Not that makes much difference except in cultural and traditional oral
tradition which ultimately ‘changes’ the being of something.  Nothing
need change with is remarkable string band. Sometimes when we speak
‘string band’ we hear…”oh one of those jamming groups”   Aaaaah this
could not be further from the truth.  Here is string music done the old
way, but oh my done so much better than even the old masters.  Harmony
singing is super (especially on “Cluck Old Hen”).  A near mandatory
instrument in string band music is of course the frailing or drop-thumb
banjo.  Far far removed from Earl Scruggs, this galloping style of
playing has an energy and beautiful sound all its own. David Kiphuth, a
very Mark Twain like genuinely looking ‘master’ of the instrument, of
which he plays several different makes, the Fielding I like very well on
“Little Bird.” That same song very reverently offers the extremely
lovely voices of Jane Rothfield, & Linda Schrade, in harmony with
life, love, and certainly a little bird.   I can’t begin to express how
deeply impressed I am with the ‘sureness’ of this group as they play. 
Much of the music keeps going back to David (even bluegrass style on
Blue Yodel #3 on his Mastertone), but the fiddle, so diligigently played
by Jane Rothfield, is also a very apparent and needed instrument to
bring it full circle into that old-time style, so popular in rural
America back in those old days, and still so very unique, so beautiful,
and so entrancing when done well today.  Allan Carr plays the upright
acoustic bass, and he adds the ‘just-right’ runs as well as that solid
‘beat’ that takes the place of unecessary drums.  Add to this the
sustaining guitar of Linda Schrade, you find a ‘gathering’ of gifted
music makers determined to keep this music alive and well.  The Albany
Times Union says “Supergroup.  It’s an overused term, but sometimes it
fits just right, such is the case with Red Hen.”  As a music historian,
Smithsonian recording artist, and festival producer I couldn’t agree
more.  All of this great music is coming from Wepecket Island Records,
573 Rockdale Ave., New Bedford, MA 02740, of which I have a couple more
recent releases from this company.  If they are half as good as this
one, my time will be well spent.
Music Review: Bob Everhart, President, National Traditional Country Music Assn. www.ntcma.net

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