It’s hard to imagine a more energetic approach to old-time music than is found in this CD from fiddler Roger Netherton and friends. The opening tune, the newish “Tippin’ Back the Corn,” written by Midwestern fiddler Jordan Wankoff, starts off peppy with just fiddle and cluck-driven banjo, then layers in guitar, and finally bass, for a rollicking first cut. A slower “John Stenson’s No. 2” pulls back on the accelerator but keeps a lilting feel. “Durang’s Hornpipes” (and the plural is correct in this case) allows first for a loping, laid-back melodic version before the band rips into a rowdier version and Netherton enlists a triple bow jump (aided by a clucking banjo and great guitar runs), both versions making for a track of more than five minutes.
“Blue Moon Waltz,” written by Netherton himself, brings in Hunter Walker’s mountain dulcimer for a sweeter sound, only for the CD to jump next to a twin-fiddled “Half Past Four” as Netherton and Rachel Eddy pull off a great duet. “Chips and Sauce” represents another new old-time tune with a nice pulsing bass holding down the beat, with Hunter Walker’s up-the-neck banjo intensity propelling the tune along. A lively but not-too-fast version of “Fire on the Mountain” brings all four musicians to the CD’s rousing conclusion.
It’s a celebrated line-up: Roger Netherton is a decorated fiddler, winning regional and national fiddle competitions. He plays at dances, concerts, and festivals with a base in his home territory of St. Louis, but ranges far and wide to play for festivals and gatherings, as YouTube videos attest. Bassist Alex Lacquement brings great depth and rhythm. Hunter Walker (West Virginia state dulcimer champion and award-winning banjo player) adds color and variety. Multi-instrumentalist Rachel Eddy, best known for her fiddling and banjo playing and stints with Uncle Earl and the Early Mays, here plays guitar on most tracks. Her guitar accompaniment especially struck me, even given its role as back-up. Eddy has been quoted as noting how her fiddle-playing background helps her follow the contours of a tune when she picks up a guitar. “[B]eing a fiddle player,” she has said, “I have that advantage, that I know where the tune is going … and I understand the melody.” Her simple bass runs and movements between chords provide a great counterpoint, a kind of threading with and “talking back,” to Netherton’s fiddle.
Netherton is thorough in citing his sources and influences in excellent liner notes, from hallowed names like John Salyer and Ed Haley and Isham Monday to more contemporary players like Chirps Smith and Garry Harrison and Rayna Gellert.
The tracks offer a variety of pacing and mood, and throughout all fourteen tunes, the special energy and great musicianship make for a well-rounded and rousing project.