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THE RUFUS CRISP EXPERIENCE "Chickens are A-Crowing" Fellside FECD113

The Rufus Crisp Experience comprises Dave Arthur (yes, that Dave Arthur) and Barry Murphy, augmented for the purposes of "Chickens are A-Crowing" by the superb fiddle playing of Pete Cooper. The material consists entirely of music from North America, played for the most part on two banjos. It would be great to sensationalise the "EFDSS mag editor emerges from the closet in rhinestone suit and stetson" angle, but in fact "Chickens are A-Crowing" is as close to the tradition as any of the albums he made with Toni in the late 60's and early 70's. All the songs and tunes fall under the "old time" heading, and as the in-depth research and meticulous crediting of sources reveal, many started life on this side of the Atlantic.

Subjecting oneself to just under an hour of almost uninterrupted banjo playing may seem to smack of masochism, but anyone who knows more than diddely squat will tell you it's the player that matters, not the instrument. Both these guys were bitten by the banjo-bug back in the late fifties during the visits of Jack Elliot and Derroll Adams. Both have travelled extensively in the States, listening and learning all the while. And I suspect that both have record collections to die for. In other words, these are time-served banjos, played with skill, taste, intelligence and infectious good humour. Both tunes and songs point the way to pastures new for Celtic-weary sessioneers - "Needle Case" is just the tune to provide a great introduction to the whole area of Old Time music, because the essence of this music is that it is designed for participation rather than passive listening. The tunings and keys are all printed on the insert, so don't just sit there - git pickin'!

Alan Rose

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This album was reviewed in Issue 21 of The Living Tradition magazine.