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Marah - Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania (2014)

11-03-2014, 08:52
World | Folk

Marah - Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania (2014)

Artist: Marah
Title Of Album: Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania
Year Of Release: 2014
Label: Valley Farm Songs
Genre: Folk
Quality: AAC 256 Kbps
Total Time: 37:23 min
Total Size: 100 MB


1. Falling of the Pine
2. A Melody of Rain
3. And Old Timer's Plaint
4. Harry Bell
5. Luliana
6. Sing!, Oh Muse of the Mountain
7. Ten Cents At the Gate
8. Mountain Minstrelsy
9. Rattlesnake
10. The Old Riverman's Regret
11. Mother, Dad & Joe

Here’s the story behind Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania. Whether it’s true or not is entirely up to you. Over a hundred years ago, seems Pennsylvanian folklorist Henry Shoemaker gathered a mighty collection of American song lyrics. Somehow, hipster folkies David Bielanko and Christine Smith of Marah got their hands on the collection, and, in true Billy Bragg-style, wrote some brand new music to fit some of the lyrics, thus resurrecting some long-lost bits of Americana.

And if that ain’t down-home enough, they recorded this music live into one microphone in a homemade studio in an old freakin’ church, leaving the doors open so curious neighbors could poke in their heads and even clap along. Among the musicians are eight-year-old fiddle/banjoist/singer Gus Tritsch, and who cares who else because holy crap, they have an eight-year-old fiddle player.

It all sounds rather urban-lengendy, but I have no reason to believe this isn’t a true story, and not (just) a stunt, because Marah’s Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania is more than just a tongue-twister; it’s a genuine charmer that feels about as authentic as it gets these days, even as it takes the music to places that good Mr. Shoemaker dared not imagine. Best yet, the songs feel at home, comfortable, and convincing (there’s none of Mermaid Avenue’s forced awkwardness). It’s pretty much all sung in two-part harmony, with Smith’s pretty alto making a nice counterpoint to Bielanko’s dustier baritone, but it’s loaded with more surprises than a Yankee rooster in a French henhouse. (Or something. I’m no good with folksy metaphors – then again, I haven’t read Shoemaker’s collection.)

Marah, or at least Bielanko and Smith, are certainly qualified to take on this sort of project. Back in the ‘90s, they were on the verge of being Philly’s Next Big Thing – their earthy brand of country rock recalled (and impressed) Steve Earle and even Springsteen, and their live shows were damn near legendary. But a shift to New York led to a bad breakup, and the band seemed to be gone before its time. I’m not sure Minstrelsy has what it takes to revive their old glory – it’s a bit too much of a curiosity – but it’s a real winner – strange, dirty, and all kinds of fun.

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