This very enjoyable CD was made by seven young friends living near Charlottesville, Virginia, who nominally play in two different bands, but on this CD kept forming and re-forming into different combinations, all of which sound very good together. The first cut, “John Hardy,” features all seven playing together tightly at breakneck speed. Do we all play this fast when we’re in our 20s?
The Old Time Snake Milkers are Colby Pegg-Joplin, Mikey Collins, Samuel Forrest Stallings, Leighton Scott Friend, and Ryan Marley Grant; Hoot and Holler are Amy Alvey and Mark Kilianski. It took a little thinking to decipher the codes telling who plays what on each track, but: no initials means all seven are playing, HH = Hoot and Holler, OTSM = Old Time Snake Milkers, other combinations of initials indicate which musicians are playing on that track (which they term “breakout ensembles”). Whatever they are doing, it makes for good listening.
Fast-paced tunes include some old standards: “Seven and a Half,” “Little Billy Wilson,” and “Soldier’s Joy.” I particularly enjoyed “Soldier’s Joy.” It takes courage to record such a chestnut, and I loved their take on it. Slowing things down only slightly, there’s Uncle Dave Macon’s “Country Ham and Gravy” and a mandolin-banjo duet, “Dolly.”
We all have friends who can play fast and fail utterly when it’s time to do a slow number. This is not the case here; “Bootlegger’s Blues,” (from the Mississippi Sheiks) is a gem, as are “Sunset Waltz” and the Snake Milkers’ original, “Mother Nature’s Way.”
Slicing the CD along another axis, we find a mixture of traditional tunes and songs, and modern music in an old-time style, some of which is original; for example, Mark Kilianski’s “The Brood of Hate” which somehow evoked Dock Boggs to my ears. Covers of other modern songs include “Looking for Money” and “Who Walks In When I Walk Out?” which, together with “Everything We Got We Stole It,” are done in Western swing style (and very well, too!), with Sam Stallings plays closed chords on the guitar and “chopping” with his right hand, Mikey Collins is on plectrum banjo and not 5-string, and Colby Pegg-Joplin does some hot licks copped from Joe Venuti.
There are lot of different styles played on this CD, and they are all fun to listen to!