Album Review: Rough Carpenters by The Black Twig Pickers
Great, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
There are three ways to have the music of the old-time Appalachian mountain string bands in the 21st century. The first, and best, is to listen to these wild and woolly bands themselves, since the music is readily available in its original form, drawn from old 78s and field recordings, in a digital platform, if one cares to look for it. The second is to have a current band of musicians enthused by the music re-create it in facsimile form, matching style for style, and plenty of 21st century string bands have done that, essentially cloning and freezing it in amber.
There's a paradox that sets the Black Twig Pickers apart from their peers. The acoustic quartet plays songs particular to the region they call home, the mountainous stretch that extends from North Carolina upward into West Virginia and Kentucky. They've learned their tunes by seeking out old-timers and their extant kin, by reading the histories and joining in song circles and all-night jams.
Must we think of the Black Twig Pickers as an old-time band? Sure, the deal in folk, blues and Appalachian musical traditions is that we often equate it with a yesterday long past. Yes, this band plays acoustic string instruments and uses washboards and the like. But, well, so what? Rough Carpenters, the band’s latest album, argues that folk music is not a sound of the past.
Disciples of tradition return with their best offering yet. Spencer Grady 2013 With members simultaneously doing time in experimental hillbilly ethnologists Pelt, you might expect this collection to offer a few more obscure turns like those hinted at on The Poplar Pole. With its repetitive fiddle refrains (courtesy of founder Mike Gangloff and recent recruit Sally Anne Morgan) the instrument’s extended notes intersect to instigate a body of interweaving drone behind the main melody, like a miniature of Henry Flynt’s New American Ethnic Music.