A review written for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Henry Koretzky
Hickory Wind was a fine semi-traditional string band that left an impressive legacy of three albums [At the Wednesday Night Waltz, Fresh Produce, and Crossing Devil's Bridge] back in the 1970s. As their career progressed, they wandered beyond standard acoustic instrumentation and experimented with electric instruments and a more modernized sound.
After an absence of almost twenty years, Lafayette's Retreat appears as a CD time capsule of the early acoustic phase of Hickory Wind. Cobbled from live performances recorded in 1976 and 1977, this recording contains a generous helping of seventeen tracks drawn from their traditional arrangements and original tunes. Listening to the range of material covered here, from Appalachian and Irish fiddle tunes to bluegrass covers to some decidedly offbeat songs, can make the listener appreciate anew the breadth of genres this group was capable of sampling in its prime.
While the live nature of Lafayette's Retreat brings with it some inevitable rough spots [such as the quick fades at the end of some tracks and the cluster-pluck busy-ness of arrangements like that of the Flatt & Scruggs instrumental Groundspeed], the overall enthusiasm of performing for a audience offsets any technical shortcomings. Bob Shank's hammered dulcimer playing adds a spirited texture to the Celtic instrumentals, while Mark Walbridge's tenor banjo augments a particularly tasty version of the tune Double File. Also noteworthy are a fine four-part a cappella arrangement of the traditional song The Innocent Hare and a slow strutting blues treatment of When It's Chittlin' Cooking Time in Cheatham County. Multi-instrumentalist Sam Morgan supplies most of Hickory Wind's original material, as well as adding a unique scat/jaw-harp part to Ragtime Annie.
With the addition of bassist David Rice and fiddler Pete Tenney, Hickory Wind's ensemble sound was relentlessly energetic and Lafayette's Retreat showcases the band at its manic best. This CD may not be an ideal introduction for those unfamiliar with this group, but it'll be a welcome addition for those whose memories [and LP collections] hold a warm spot for Hickory Wind.
Edited by David N. Pyles