Appalachian Heaven String Band is a lively, driving five piece Melbourne-based string band. They joyfully play traditional “old time” music of the rural south of the USA, mixed with some folk, blues, and country. The musicians are Ian Alexander (clawhammer banjo), John Boothroyd (guitar, vocals), Maggie Duncan (fiddle, dance calling), Evan Webb (string bass),Graeme Fletcher (autoharp) and Kimberley Wheeler (vocals,bass,mandolin).
The band knocks everyone’s socks off with their exceptional musical skills and obvious love of the traditional material. They enliven concert stages, run square dances and give instrument workshops. Band members have extensive experience in dance-calling, and in teaching banjo, fiddle and flat pick guitar.
The band’s repertoire is from the Southern Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Ian regularly attends the large old time festivals in the USA, and has learned much from some of the greatest Appalachian players, both current and from the last generation. He has played with Tracy Schwartz and Mike Seeger (RIP). The band’s other influences include the Carter Family, the New Lost City Ramblers, the Freight Hoppers, and the Highwoods String Band.
The band loves to play, honor and share the music of the mountains. They sing happy and sad songs; they also want the audience up and dancing!
Appalachian Heaven has released two albums, “In the Pines” and “Railroadin’ & Gamblin’” and their third CD is ” Been All Around This World”.
CD Review by Chris Spencer
Bluegrass band, Appalachian Heaven String Band are certainly prolific, this being their 3 album in 3 years.
However there are some personnel changes this line-up of the band consists of Evan Webb on upright bass, John Boothroyd on guitar and vocals, Ian Alexander on clawhammer banjo, Maggie Duncan on fiddle and Graeme Fletcher also on vocals and autoharp.
Alexander and Duncan seem to be the only two members who were in the line-up in 2010.
All 13 tracks are traditional except two, Old Rip credited to Lynn Morris and Sitting on Top of the World.
The band have added ‘String Band’ to their name, suggesting perhaps a wider approach to their selection of material.
I found that on this recording a bluegrass influence was quite strong, although the inclusion of a couple of reels provides interest for folk enthusiasts.
Instrumentals include Duncan’s Reel, most of Benton’s Dream, Nervous Breakdown, Old Rip, Kaiser Waltz, St Anne’s reel.
The band mixes up the tempo, ensuring interest is maintained over the length of the cd.
Slower tunes are Cruel Willie and the title track, while Nervous Breakdown probably has the fastest measure.
Each musician has the opportunity to shine on various tracks the banjo playing of Ian Alexander is highlighted on Old Rip, I Ain’t gonna Work Tomorrow; the fiddle on Nervous Breakdown, Kaiser Waltz, St Anne’s reel; the autoharp on Soldier’s Joy.
The most laid back song is Sitting on Top of the World I think most people who enjoy ‘old time’ music, folk and bluegrass influenced music will find much to like about this album.