Ken Perlman is a master banjo player. A long time ago, he looked at the banjo and the perceived limitations of the instrument and proceeded to take clawhammer banjo to places no one else has gone with as much success. The famous bum-ditty rhythm of the most basic style is not to be found here. What we do find is a master in his long pursuit of the music of Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, playing tunes once thought unplayable on the clawhammer banjo. Historians have noted that one of the most significant differences between music of the North and South is that fiddle tunes were adjusted for the rhythm of the banjo in the South. Well, now the banjo has been changed for the rhythm of the fiddle.
Using a great deal of dropthumb and many sophisticated noting hand techniques, Perlman captures the idiosyncratic melodic and ornamentations of these Canadian styles. So much so that Janine Randall, his piano accompanists says, “I’m used to accompanying prominent Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island fiddlers, but I never miss having a fiddler around when I play with Ken Perlman. Ken seamlessly plays marches, jigs, strathspeys, and reels in the PEI and Scottish Cape Breton style on a banjo that incurs all the rhythms and grace notes of a seasoned master fiddler.”
Perlman is also accompanied by Jim Pendergast on guitar. On one of those tracks, “Dallas Rag,” Perlman takes another timing challenge and sets the record straight by playing the rag in two keys proving that, although the rag timing is counter to the traditional bum-ditty, it can be done and it’s a masterful performance. The only Appalachian tune here is “Tennessee Mountain Fox Chase” with its own unique timing challenges. If you think you know clawhammer banjo and it all sounds the same, think again. (www.kenperlman.com)RCB
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