The New Lost City Ramblers

On the Great Divide

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Well into their career as a trio, the faithful three of Mike Seeger, Tracy Schwarz, and John Cohen came up with one of the best New Lost City Ramblers albums. The choice of material is particularly fun, that adjective being chosen to stress an important, and sometimes neglected, element of this genre. From the opening combination of dulcimer, fiddle, and banjo, the sound of the group is rich, the high overtones of the stringed instruments shimmering like sun over the water. Unfortunately, this track is treated to a fadeout, while an actual ending would have only increased the beauty of "John Brown's Dream." The banjo picking by Schwarz is sensational on "Love of Polly and Jack Monroe," a song originally done by George Davis. Oh yes, of course all the proper references are here, so folk music fanatics of all ages can continue conducting the proper research. This group always includes a few solos on each album and here these are particularly memorable, possibly a reflection of the various members' growing strengths as players. Cohen takes on "Walking Boss," the bassline from his banjo sounding positively intimidating. On "A Night at the Country Opera," Schwarz does a slightly strained but well-intentioned tribute to the vaudeville spoofing of good old Fiddler Joe. Seeger takes on a Roscoe Holcomb tune as a one-man duo, playing fiddle and harmonica simultaneously. Performances such as this tend to be highlights of his solo sets; they also fit nicely into a band program such as this.

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