I hold no expert opinion about the hammered dulcimer and its role in old-time music. I am more familiar with the clawhammer-style of banjo playing, but I have listened to much, much more bluegrass “Scruggs” playing than I have the frailing method associated with old-time music.
I do enjoy and appreciate old-time music- early Doc Watson recordings (okay, any Doc Watson recordings), Norman Blake, Alice Gerrard, The Foghorn Stringband, Old Man Luedecke, heck, Old Crow Medicine Show: love the music. But, I am quite tired of modern string-bands who stomp and holler their way through their idea of old-time music, music that frequently sounds inexpertly played by amateurs disguised behind scruffy facial hair as professionals where enthusiasm replaces rigor in a gross approximation of a beautiful old-time music.
Give me a band (or duo, or singer) that has mastered their music, their instruments, and their vocal approach, and who play with feeling and intensity along with an apparent appreciation for the roots of music from an earlier time, and I’m happy. What is vital is that the group demonstrates that old-time music doesn’t need to be a stale, modern reproduction of a relic from a bygone era- a pale reflection of nostalgia for a time few of us can imagine. This music can be and- in the right hands- is a modern sound enjoyed by contemporary individuals played with all the passion that music should include.
So it is refreshing and exciting to hear the still fairly recent recording from the father-son combination of Ken and Brad Kolodner. On their album Skipping Rocks they not only treat the music as a living entity deserving of respect and nurturing hands, they bring freshness within their interpretation of old time music. That they also feature an instrument often overlooked, the hammered dulcimer, makes their music that much more interesting.
This is a wonderful album, a complete set of music that runs nearly an hour. It is bright, lively, and thought provoking. The tune I’m featuring this week as my Roots Song of the Week has had its roots traced back to the mid-1800s and I’m not sure if I’ve heard “Falls of Richmond” before; while the entire album is exceptional, this tune struck me at first listen. Give it a listen here:
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald