Appalachian Heaven String Band – Railroadin’ & Gamblin’
CD review by Hugh Worrall Published in TN152 November 2022
This old timey music immediately feels like an American square dance and reminds us of the connections, and shared European roots, between this American string band music and our own Australian bush music.
In the first track, “Texas Gales” I could immediately imagine people doing ‘strip the willow’ and other bush dance steps.
The liner notes on the CD are terrific with information about the history of the music in each track and from where they got the songs themselves.
The recordings from which the band draw inspiration are mostly from the early 20th century like those of A.P. Carter, Charlie Poole and Mississippi John Hurt and song writers and transcribers such as, WC Handy.
The songs on the album come from each of the centuries back to the 1600s and come mostly from the Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee regions of the USA.
Dr Google tells me that the Appalachian region stretches across 13 States from the south of New York State to the North of Mississippi.
While the band themselves are from Shepparton, Victoria, several of the members have spent a lot of time playing and learning this music in the USA.
Some of the songs were taught to them directly from local people rather than learned from recordings.
The string band is made up of banjo, two fiddles, ‘flat picking’ guitar, bass and vocals.
Like in other string bands, there’s no percussion instruments and the rhythm is driven by the repetitive patterns on the fiddles, banjo and guitar.
Lots of the song structures usually use pretty simple chord patterns like repeating 1-5-1 changes and there’s a few old-timey blues songs there too.
The fast picking and fiddle playing keeps the music interesting, fun and exciting.
The vocals mostly adopt that hillbilly kind of twang and there’s some nice harmonies.
It’s pretty hard to stay still while you listen to the faster songs and they’ve got this effect of making you feel happy.
There’s also some wistful old time bluesy songs on the CD, done here really tastefully.
This is a really nice album of 15 tracks, with a great selection of songs, well played and recorded and well described on the CD package.