NEW RECORDING: Spyglass | Rodney Miller & Elvie Miller

There’s a commonly deployed fairy tale where a person is put under a spell that causes them to fall in love with the next person (or creature) that they meet. The concept is entertaining, but it also suggests a truth in the human psyche; that there are things that can occur within us that ripen our receptivity to romance. It is with some caution then, that we urge you to listen to Spyglass, an album made up entirely of waltzes.

SpyglassRodney Miller is in his fourth decade as a recording artist, and has for some time enjoyed residence in the pantheon of contra dance fiddlers. His previous albums are fairly distinct from each other while maintaining a common thread of being comprised of solid dance tunes; well-chosen blends of jigs and reels, and the occasional waltz. It requires both creativity and confidence to produce a recording that does not deviate from ¾ time.

 

Elvie Miller, his daughter, may have a genetic blessing on her musical abilities, but it still takes considerable effort to make music sound so effortless. One cannot say that she “accompanies” her father on piano and accordion; her playing provides an equal partnership (indeed she is even heard in a 2:1 ratio in several places, multi-tracking both instruments). Her playing exudes a steady strength while frequently venturing into the ethereal. Read more

NEW RECORDING: Lathrop’s Waltz, by Sarah Bauhan

Lathrop’s Waltz is the title of a new release from flute and whistle-player Sarah Bauhan. Through each of her 4 albums (starting in 1991) Sarah’s efforts have evolved in breadth and sophistication, though it must be said that she set the bar quite high from the beginning. Lathrop's Waltz

One could be unfamiliar with Sarah’s music, or even this genre (New England/Scottish/Celtic) and yet still reap great pleasure from listening. The melodies range from haunting to delightful, and they are well served by the caliber and diversity of the musicians. I believe Sarah took a risk (albeit well-calculated) in having such variety. Some of the pieces are rendered in a more modern, fluid style (the piano and bass stylings of Kent Allyn tastefully reveal his jazz influences), while other pieces are more solidly New England, accompanied by the inevitable Bob McQuillen, who has also served as a mentor throughout Sarah’s career. Read more

FolkNotes: December

Musical genres are funny things. I remember in the early days of the Folkway Coffeehouse in Peterborough, there was a rule that no amplified instruments could be used. This was put to the test when Stan Rogers showed up for a triumphant return to the venue (he was an unknown when he first performed there), with an electric bassist to accompany him. There was much hemming and hawing, but of course Stan went on, and everything worked out fine. This was a little mini-version of the crisis Bob Dylan had instigated some years before when he electrified Newport. Sadly, Stan didn’t live long enough for us to find out where his musical explorations might have taken him. Dylan, on the other hand, is making commercials for Cadillac and Victoria’s Secret. He still makes great music, and while it is informed by multiple genres. I think you’d still have to use the word “folk” among them. Read more

FolkNotes: November

Sometime in or around 1980 there was a sitting-around-the-kitchen meeting between a group of friends that resulted in the formation of the Monadnock Folklore Society. The group consisted of myself, Mary DesRosiers, Gary Heald, Jennifer Price, and Ken Wilson. It took a couple of years for MFS to be officially set up as an organization with 501-C3 status, but the ball was rolling.

There were two great influences for founding MFS. One was the Monday night dance, which had been started by Peter Temple in Harrisville in January of 1978 (look for 30th anniversary coverage on this Web site coming up). Not that contra dancing wasn’t already popular in these parts, but this particular dance provided an opportunity for new callers and musicians to get experience. It wasn’t until many years later, after the dance had moved to Nelson, that MFS became the official sponsor, but I know that the early Monday night dances certainl enriched the environment – making it fertile folk ground.

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FolkNotes: October

Now October’s growin’ thin, and November’s comin’ home . . .

I never move into October without having these lovely lyrics come into my head. It’s from Turning Towards the Morning, a song Gordon Bok wrote, way back in 1975. I probably heard it for the first time a year or two later, and I’ve remained enchanted with the song all these years.

We’re moving into the time of year where there are many ancient folk traditions celebrated. At the end of October, Sawhain, an ancient Celtic festival on which, with typical modern American distortion, the “tradition” of Halloween has sprung. On the other hand, perhaps the strongest original American tradition is the Thanksgiving holiday that follows, though that too has been subject to increased commercial influence. We hardly dare mention Christmas in that regard, but will note the more relevant Solstice. Read more