The hammered dulcimer is an unusual and infrequently heard instrument. It is a frame with dozens of strings which is played by tapping individual strings with little "hammers". If you open a piano and look inside you will see something similar. the hammers in this case are operated when the player presses the piano keys. It is not surprising that the hammered dulcimer can sound a little like a piano or harpsichord. With dampers, the strings can be muted to make a percussive sound. On "Journey to the Heartland", the hammered dulcimer is piloted by Ken Kolodener through a variety of old time, Celtic and French Canadian tunes. Ken is a marvelous player and has great fiddle and guitar accompaniment from Laura Risk, Elke Baker, Robin Bullock and Paddy League.
Journey to the Heartland has twelve tracks but most tracks contain medleys so in all there are 23 tunes. If you contra dance, you might have heard tunes like Lady of the Lake or Cuckoo's Nest. But most of the tunes have been collected from various regions where the music was born and are refreshingly new, I'd think, to many listeners. The fiddle and hammered dulcimer create a synergy that carries a lively tune along and sets your feet tapping. My favorites are Shenandoah Falls and North Carolina Breakdown. There are a good number of reels, breakdowns and hornpipes to select from.
The album is not all lively tunes. For contrast and mood setting there are some lovely waltzes and slow marches. Ken plays some of these with mainly the hammered dulcimer in the spotlight. With such a variety of music the listener does not tire from hearing this CD over and over. The musicianship and production are excellent throughout. Ken wrote several of the tunes including the title tune Journey to the Heartland.
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