Old-time music has always looked backwards for its inspiration. This fourth record from Jason Cade (fiddle) and Rob McMaken (lap dulcimer, mandolin, guitar) is a good example of the strong connective tissue that bonds mountain music to its sources across the Atlantic. Aptly subtitled Old World Music of the Southern Appalachians, this collection reeks and creaks with a stripped-down ancient goodness born of branchwater and laurel thickets. With a handful of guests adding banjo, uke, and percussion here and there, the arrangements never get big and gaudy, but rather, they reflect the simple values of mountain life.
Jason and Rob seem to be fond of traveling the road less taken, and I’m glad they do. They play little-known settings of old chestnuts such as “Cumberland Gap,” “Durang’s Hornpipe,” “Rye Straw,” and what they call “Woodswoman” (formerly “Indian Squaw”). They play Southern versions of Irish tunes such as Larry Redican’s “Galway Reel” (as “Redican’s Trip to Appalachia”), “Spike Island Lasses,” and “Wounded Hoosier” (an Irish set dance called “The Blackbird,” also played by Edden Hammons as “Queen of the Earth and Child of the Skies”). They play wonderful old tunes from fiddling legends that include Ed Haley, John Salyer, Bruce Greene, Ernie Carpenter, and Hiram Stamper. And best of all, they honor the Cherokee roots of tunes like “Georgia Horseshoe” and “Oldtime Grey Eagle.”
Nothing evokes the ancient spirit of these tunes more than the lap dulcimer backing up the fiddle. Nothing sounds more right than a simple banjo line twining around an archaic melody. Nothing lifts the spirit like an old mandolin laughing along with the lilt of the fiddle. This music sings of mountains and dirt roads and times gone by. Well done, boys.