For many years, I have had a strong interest in traditional folk music from around the world, but especially Appalachian music (also known as "old-time") and traditional Celtic music. These two music traditions are strongly linked since the origins of old-time music can be traced back to Celtic music. In more recent years, I have been drawn to another musical cousin--the traditional music of Quebec (called Quebecois or French Canadian).
This recording brings together my love of these wonderful traditions. While there are characteristics that distinguish each of these, there is an especially great rhythmic energy and swing that unites the Quebecois and old-time repertoires.
The Quebecois repertoire is rich with beautifully syncopated tunes and waltzes that offer great possibilities for exploring alternate chord progressions not often found in traditional American folk music. Old-time music brings me home to the music that I first started playing on the fiddle, affording great improvisational opportunities inherent in its simplicity.
I learned most of the music on this recording in the true folk tradition--by ear, from musicians all around the world. The world of traditional music represents a community that covers a large geographic area yet remains very closely knit by a common love of the music.
1. Caspian's Return (Ken Kolodner, US)
Cuckoo's Nest Hornpipe (Ireland)
Hammered dulcimer; guitar (Paddy), fiddle (Laura)
Typical of the folk tradition with tunes passed along aurally, there are at least three somewhat related versions of the tune The Cuckoo's Nest. This three-part setting comes from the Baltimore-based Irish fiddler Jim Eagan. The first tune was composed at the request of my daughter, Hillary, to cheer up our Golden Retriever, Caspian, following an injury.
2. Lady of the Lake/ Farewell Trion/Shenandoah Falls (US)
Hammered dulcimer; guitar (Robin); Fiddle (Elke).
These are three well-traveled fiddle tunes that come from very uncertain journeys. As is typical with most traditional tunes, the authors and titles of the tunes are unknown. One source states that Farewell Trion was written by an Alabama fiddler at least 100 years ago.
3. Coleman's March (US)/ North Carolina Breakdown (Arthur Smith, US)
Hammered dulcimer; guitar (Robin)
Like many others, I learned this tune about 20 years ago from Vermonter, Pete Sutherland. I enjoy straying a bit from the basic tune and, in North Carolina Breakdown, I use a simple bassline idea which sets up several non-traditional chord changes.
4. Journey to the Heartland (Ken Kolodner, US)
YZ Hamilton's Breakdown (US)
Hammered dulcimer, fiddle (Ken); guitar (Robin)
As I travel around the country, and find myself far too often waiting in airports, I often pass the time plucking out tunes on my fiddle. Journey to The Heartland was composed while traveling from Asheville, NC to Kansas City, MO. Continuing the journey theme; the second tune took a circuitous route from musicians in Seattle, WA to Elkins, WV to GA to SC to me! The second tune, with its use of persistent syncopation, is similar in feel to ragtime tunes popular in America in the early 1900s.
5. Waltz of My Dreams/Marche du Mont. Saint Louis (Quebec)
I learned Waltz of My Dreams from a 1966 recording of the great Quebec fiddler Gérard "Ti-Noir" Joyal (1921-1989). Originally recorded by Quebec accordionist Alfred Montmarquette in 1928, Marche du Mont. Saint Louiscame to me via Nova Scotian born flutist Chris Norman. Born in New York in 1871, Montmarquette moved to Montreal in his early fifties and was very influential in Quebecois music.
6. Polka of the Setting Sun/Reel Antoinette (Quebec)
Hammered dulcimer; guitar (Paddy); fiddle (Laura)
The first tune was originally called Polka des Pionniers. Characteristic of French Canadian music, the rhythm is infectious.
7. The Blacktail Canyon Waltz (Ken Kolodner, US) /
Down Home Waltz (Buck White, US)
Hammered dulcimer; guitar (Robin); fiddle (Elke)
On a hike into the Grand Canyon with my family (and fiddle!), I had the
great pleasure of sharing tunes with a river guide who, much to my surprise
at the time, was also a fiddler. We had a memorable session in The Blacktail
Canyon, a side canyon that borders the Colorado River.
8. Mike in the Wilderness/Red Bird (US)
Fiddles (Ken, Elke); guitar and mandolin (Robin)
These are old-time tunes I learned along the way. There are at least three versions of Red Bird, but this is my favorite.
9. Eddie's Reel (Eddie Plante, US)
The Cicada Reel (Ken Kolodner, US)
Hammered dulcimer.. I finished this recording on the East Coast, just when the cicadas were emerging from their 17-year slumber. The tune began life as a very late night improvisation.
10. My Cape Breton Home (Jerry Holland, Cape Breton Island)
This sweet tune is penned by a very well known fiddler Jerry Holland from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia and has become quite popular among traditional musicians.
11. The Banks Hornpipe (Scotland)
Hammered dulcimer; guitar (Robin).
Popular legend has it that The Banks was written by the grandson of an Italian violinist who immigrated to Scotland in the early 1800s. The Banks, usually played in Eb but here in the more dulcimer friendly key of G, is widely known as a fiddle showpiece among Scottish fiddlers.
12. Valse du Peril/ L'hirondelle légère (Quebec)
Hammered dulcimer; guitar (Paddy); Fiddle (Laura)
Valse du Peril is another piece first recorded by Quebec accordionist Alfred Montmarquette. L'hirondelle légère (the "light sparrow") was first recorded by the great Quebec fiddler Gérard "Ti-Noir" Joyal (1921-1989) in 1956.
My Cape Breton Home © Jerry Holland, 1988.
Down Home Waltz © Buck White.
North Carolina Breakdown © Arthur L. Smith, 1937.
Caspian's Return, Journey to the Heartland, The Cicada Reel, The Blacktail Canyon Waltz © Ken Kolodner.
All Ken Kolodner's arrangements of public domain tunes © Ken Kolodner, Fenchurch Music, BMI, 2004. Publishing Administration, Maggie's Music, Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.
Recorded and mixed by Rennie Grant, Mission Media, Baltimore, MD. Produced by Ken Kolodner. Mastered by Bill Wolf at Wolf Productions, Inc., Alexandria, VA. CD Booklet: Graphic Artist: Jennifer Johnson and Art Director: Maggie Sansone. Photos: Artist photo (black and white) by Irene Young; Artist photo (color) by Michael Ciesielski; Grand Teton Barns by Jon Sullivan, PDPhoto.org; fiddle photo by Scott Morrow - Phosphor.