It can be tricky business playing traditional music. One wants to preserve the traditional feeling and history of the music while at the same time giving it one's own artistic stamp. Move too far in one direction or the other, and one or both of these opposing objectives is seriously compromised.
Clawhammer banjoist Hilarie Burhans has found a perfect balance in Put on the Skillet, an independent release of mostly traditional old time tunes. Burhans is a master banjo player who has won the Ohio State Old-Time Banjo contest nine times. When not recording solo, she is a member of Hotpoint String Band, a contradance band in which she is joined by many of the other players on this album.
Burhans' playing has the sweet plunky sound a clawhammer banjo should have. It fits perfectly alongside her rich and soulful vocals. Rounding out the sound on this album are the traditional fiddle, mandolin, bass and guitar, as well as the Indian harmonium and various objects of percussion. The result is a unique yet traditional sounding and feeling collection. Her rendition of Little Sadie sounds as though it might have been recorded sixty years ago, given the rhythmic playing of Mark Hellenberg on an aluminum doumbek, giving the backdrop that "scratchy-record" feel.
It might take some doing to track this recording down, but it is well worth the effort. Hilarie Burhans is making some mighty fine music out there in Ohio. It ought to be heard far and wide.
Edited by David N. Pyles
Page design by David N. Pyles