Bonnie Russell

Mountain Dulcimer Galax Style

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The mountain dulcimer, which is also often called the fretted, lap or Appalachian dulcimer, had a somewhat limited use in the southern mountains, but thanks to Jean Ritchie and others, has had a revival of sorts since the urban folk boom of the 1960s. Although ideally suited to accompany the old modal tunes of the Appalachians, the instrument's chief weakness was its inability to project loudly in a string band setting, leaving that ground to resonator banjos, acoustic guitars and fiddles. This delightful album by Bonnie Russell & the Russell Family could well change that perception of the lap dulcimer as a parlor rather than a dance instrument, though, since the traditional tunes presented here are all done at a brisk clip, and the feel is more like a fiddle-led string band than anything else. Bonnie Russell plays in the so-called Galax style, which means the dulcimer has all of its four strings tuned to D and a noter is used to fret them in a slide style, allowing her to generate a good deal more speed and projection than the instrument usually demonstrates. Make no mistake about it, this is a dance album, and traditional tunes like the fiery "Ebeneezer," "Cindy," and "Flop Eared Mule," all songs usually associated with the fiddle, fly by in rapid succession, and even songs usually assigned to the ballad tradition, like the venerable "John Hardy," chime along at a danceable pace. Every track is rapid and bright, and fluid as cold spring water, making this an eye-opening dulcimer record.

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