I am reminded of the late John Fahey who more than once in his early years hid behind a pseudonym so folk might think they were listening to a long lost bluesman from the past. Add surface noise to this CD and you could be listening to any of the string bands from the 1920s and '30s, when old-time country music had a regional identity and personality that records were able to capture. The Black Twig Pickers, from South West Virginia, are just 80 years behind the times. The trio sharing fiddle, banjo, guitar, jaw's harp and other miscellaneous percussion instruments, plus the odd vocal, work their way through 15 songs and tunes, all but two of which are culled from the rich heritage of Appalachian music. Unless you read the notes, no one would be able to detect that two of the tunes are originals, the superb Smoker Wedding March with cross-tuned fiddle played with bow and chopsticks, and a fiddle and banjo gem Craig Street Hop.
The trick in replicating old-time music is not to be seduced by the quality of modern recording to make every instrument separate, clear and highly compressed, and these guys recorded one take live and produced a finished sound that is as pure as the music they play. The other trick, or talent if you will, is not to be mannered or self conscious with the singing and their vocals are just the right shade of roughness. Only Fire on the Mountain leaps out as a well-known tune, and even this has a unique arrangement. Wonderful to be able to add this to the many CDs of reissued old-time fiddle music classics and not be able to detect a join.
-- John Atkins, fRoots