Music that stops you in your tracks is a revelation and there’s a clue in the sleeve notes to the selective but universal world this recording inhabits, revels in. A mossy rock somewhere up a mountain trail, overshadowed by its misty Appalachian cousins and yet once stumbled over, no less significant and astounding than the mountain giants that threaten to overshadow it. No less difficult to negotiate than the crags and ridges of a trail; the long musical path Isak Howell, Nathan Bowles and Mike Gangloff re-tread, in order to bring the pay-day stomps, moonshine reels and miner’s wakes of the traditional Appalachian fiddle and banjo masters of their adopted home, into the twenty first century.
Blasting in with the whoops and kneeslaps of “Drink Nothing But Corn” and “Last Payday At Coal Creek,” comprising of thirteen oldtime and two new reasons to down tools and join in the wild abandon this music is famous for, via the lament of “Dead Man’s Piece” and the percussive banjo and Celtic lyres of self-penned “Smoker Wedding March”’s proud skip up the isle. “’Fire In The Mountain” handed down through family and friend, demonstrating the value of tradition and “Craig Street Hop” – another original – matching it.
Throughout the disc, frantic fiddle, banjo and ragged vocals plus washboard, bones, fiddlesticks, guitar, mouth n’ jaw harp keep the grog flowing until a lonely snare and Charlie Parr‘s guesting on baritone 12-string finally brings it to a close with a solemn dirge, “Rocking in a Weary Land.” Like the craft displayed in the pencil drawings of the players that grace the notes about each track, executed with study, respect; but also with a one-take, no-overdubs soul. Happy trails.