THE OLD-TIME SNAKE MILKERS AND HOOT AND HOLLER
How can you possibly resist two bands, happily united for this album, with names like those? This delightful collaborative CD grew from a chance musical meeting. Hoot And Holler is the Asheville, N.C.-based duo of Amy Alvey (fiddle) and Mark Kilianski (guitar), contemporary folk-country singer-songwriters influenced by such icons of traditional music as Ola Belle Reed and Roscoe Holcomb. While touring in 2016, Alvey and Kilianski attended a live music night at the Blue Moon Diner in Charlottesville, Va. There they met members of the Old-Time Snake Milkers, a local outfit whose lineup includes vocalists Colby Pegg-Joplin (fiddle), Mikey Collins, Jr., (harmonica, guitar, and banjo), and Samuel Forrest Stallings (banjo, guitar), Leighton Scott Friend (mandolin) and Ryan Marley Grant (bass). A jam until dawn followed, and then the notion of capturing the synergy in a mix-and-match, live-in-the-studio format.
From the double-fiddle opening of “John Hardy” to the closing “Soldier’s Joy,” there is hardy joy aplenty. The varying combinations of players allows for maximum variety. “Cherry River Rag” fits seamlessly with “Seven And A Half,” a report on hard times and low pay. The wistful banjo and mandolin arrangement of “Dolly” compliments the exuberant rendering of “Little Billy Wilson.” “Country Ham And Red Gravy” is a minstrel frolic associated with Uncle Dave Macon. “Bootleggers Blues” is backwoods lonesome with a sly charm.
There’s some noteworthy original material, too, “Mother Nature’s Way” is a pseudo-commercial by the Old-Time Snake Milkers for the product that inspired their name. “Brood Of Hate,” by Mark Kilianski, has a contemporary theme written in the mode of classic Dock Boggs, and “Everything We Got, We Stole It” from the Snake Milkers provides a wry take on where the folk process ends and brazen appropriation begins.
Amy Alvey is a fine singer whose vocal on “House Of David Blues” reminds me of Maria D’Amato Muldaur during the heyday of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Mikey Collins, Jr., displays versatile virtuosity on four-string banjo as well as the clawhammered five-string. His solos with the four-string (as on “Sunset Waltz”) make a case for a resurgence in traditional music of that overlooked and occasionally maligned little instrument.
Engineers Joe Bass and Joseph Dejarnette have captured the energy of playing live in the studio while recording each voice and instrument with admirable separation and clarity. Let’s hope that these two groups will favor us with a Milkers And Hollers, Volume 2. (www.hootandhollermusic.com)RDS