KITTY AMARAL, FIDDLE GEMS
This young lady has been garnering attention with her fiddling over the past four years, even playing on the Grand Ole Opry about the time of this writing. Kitty moved with her family to the mountains of Southwest Virginia and came to know a fiddling neighbor, Jerry Correll. Correll started teaching her and, soon, she was surpassing all of his expectations as a student. He produced this CD, and it is a thing of wonder. The region is chock-full of great musicians, as it always has been. Correll is an interesting fellow in that he is never satisfied to just learn the tunes of his region, but is also driven to look about and find great tunes from all over. As a result, his student is playing a wide array of old-time fiddle tunes with a touch of bluegrass thrown in to keep it real.
There are 19 tracks on this recording with the final cut, “Funky Chicken,” a Byron Berline tune originally played in a duet with banjoist John Hickman. Here, Amaral and Kyle Dean Smith take the piece and have a lot of fun with it. Smith also contributed two original tunes to the project, the lively “Double K Hornpipe” (for Kitty and Kyle) and the lovely “Ellie’s Waltz” for Ellie Kirby, a local musician and artisan.
Some old-time tunes require special tuning. In one of those tunings, Amaral plays “Midnight On The Water” and “Bonaparte’s Retreat” in a very well-conceived medley. Correll’s influence is apparent on “Lonesome Polly Ann” and “Going Up Elk Creek,” on which Amaral doubles his fiddling. But this young lady exceeds all expectations for an 11-year-old fiddler (at the time of the recording) by playing some amazing versions of “Durham’s Bull,” “Oklahoma Rooster,” and “Rhymer’s Favorite.” Her variations on “Big John McNeil” will keep many a fiddler hoping to try to work them into their versions. There are moments of levity in the mix with witty touches to a couple of tunes and her tribute to the late John Hartford. Although she’s not old enough to remember him, his mark as a fiddler lives on.
The backup band makes use of some great local talent. Tom Mylet and Kyle Dean Smith (playing an assortment of instruments including guitar, mandolin, banjo, and banjo uke), along with Donna Correll on bass, make up the basic band. Special guests include Wayne Henderson, Carl Jones, Adam Hurt, Harrol Blevins, and Steve Kilby. All add their special touches. The detail-oriented concept and production of this project makes for a rich and varied program with different instrumentation and pacing throughout. One question remains: Who would teach an 11-year-old a tune called “Bad Liquor”? (www.kittyamaral.com)RCB