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KEN PERLMAN - Frails & Frolics: Tunes From Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton & Elsewhere On Clawhammer Banjo 

KEN PERLMAN - Frails & Frolics: Tunes From Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton & Elsewhere On Clawhammer Banjo 
Redbud Recordings REDBUDRECORDS103

An authority on North American folk music, Ken Perlman delivers vintage tunes on 5-string banjo here, with accompaniment. Most of the 45 tunes were collected from Prince Edward Island fiddlers, a group which includes exiled Scots and Irish families as well as French Canadian or Acadian players and even some non-European traditions. Most of this material has come from Scotland or Ireland to the New World, and been subtly or grossly changed in the process. Teviot Brig, North Side Of The Grampians, Jenny Dang and Pride Of The Ball are instantly recognisable, albeit with some name changes: Fig For A Kiss less so, and Omar Cheverie's Jig started life as the strathspey I think. There's an interesting version of St Kilda Wedding, a pair of challenging James Hill hornpipes, the currently very popular Little Donald In The Pig Pen and more than one great tune from Quebec, along with reels, jigs, clogs, breakdowns and more from both sides of the Atlantic.

Perlman has a loose clawhammer style on banjo, picking some quite complex melodies but emphasising the rhythm rather than the details of ornamentation. His music is extremely enjoyable for banjo fans, especially when he drifts into the rags and other dances of the early 20th century; these have a very different feel from the Scots and Irish imports. Dallas Rag, Carlton County Breakdown and Tennessee Fox Chase are pure Americana, and there are a couple of other country or oldtime tunes here too, played with a mix of banjo styles and some fine guitar accompaniment. This selection ranges all across south east Canada for Ottawa Reel, Cheticamp Reel and Prince Edward Island Wedding Reel - they do like their reels up there. From the opening romp through The Londonderry Hornpipe to the final classic medley of march, strathspey and reels, Frails & Frolics presents a detailed picture of the eclectic fiddle repertoire to be found on Prince Edward Island approximately a generation ago. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 124 of The Living Tradition magazine.