Jean Ritchie

The Most Dulcimer

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Although Jean Ritchie is associated with the Appalachian lap dulcimer, an instrument she largely introduced -- along with Richard Farina -- to the emerging folk revival of the 1960s, she seldom features it on more than a handful of tracks on her many albums. As she tells it, this led to her forever being asked at performances and appearances, which album has the most dulcimer? Well, this one does, which is why it is called Most Dulcimer, and it has been assembled to present that aspect of Ritchie's talent. And having the most dulcimer, it is probably, therefore, the most immediately accessible of her records, and definitely the best introduction yet to her particular vision of the Appalachian folk music tradition. Airy and modal, Most Dulcimer has the kind of built in mountain nostalgia that anyone can relate to, but in this case, it's earned, rather than an affectation, since Ritchie grew up in the Cumberlands and learned these songs from her friends, family and neighbors in the truest expression of the oral tradition, before the various modern communication mediums (like radio, records, television, the Internet) all but swept that tradition away. Charming, chiming and calming, the songs on Most Dulcimer add up to a wonderfully cohesive sonic tour of the Appalachian song tradition, part riddle and game, part art song, part jubilee. Highlights include the two gems that open the sequence, "Over the River to Feed My Sheep" and "Pretty Saro," as well as two well-written Ritchie originals, the elegant "Wintergrace" and the funky (for a dulcimer, anyway) "Movin' on Down the River."

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