04 March 2018

Pat Kelleher reviews Frails & frolics

The BIB does not do reviews or find reviewers for products, but we're happy to publish this review by Pat Kelleher of Ken Perlman's first all-banjo recording:

Frails & frolics is the latest solo recording offering from five-string-banjo melodic clawhammer pioneer and virtuoso Ken Perlman. Ken has dedicated a lot of his life to collecting and arranging fiddle tunes in his unique style. The tunes on this recording come from many sources including Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton, Ireland, and Scotland, most of them collected from fiddlers in Prince Edward Island.

There are more than forty-five tunes included and it would be impossible to review them all individually. From waltzes to reels to hornpipes, breakdowns to rags - and intriguingly he has mastered playing jigs in clawhammer style - Ken's playing is inspiring almost to the point of impossibility. Being a clawhammer player myself, his dedication is obvious and successful. One can appreciate, by listening, the amount of time and effort in collecting, arranging, and performing these tunes. You can hear the influence of the great fiddle players in this tune-sleuth's playing, while at the same time respecting their origins and tradition. He certainly doesn’t make life easy for himself by not using a capo for key changes and has mastered playing in many keys and tunings as well as playing way up the neck. The CD version contains a nice booklet featuring intro, notes on all tunes, keys, and banjo tuning info for fellow banjoists.

Some of my favourite track picks are 'Where the North River flows', 'The Dallas rag', and 'Tennessee Mountain fox chase' to name but a few. However the list is endless and varied nicely to keep the listener continuously interested.

This is Ken’s first solo recording in almost fifteen years, having been performing and recording with the renowned fiddler Alan Jabbour (1942-2017) to whose memory this CD is dedicated. Frails & frolics is an interesting title. 'Frailing' is another name for clawhammer and we all know what 'Frolics' are! He is beautifully accompanied by guitarist Jim Prendergast and pianist Janine Randall.

The CD is available for purchase direct from Ken’s website and www.store.cdbaby.com as well as for download.

Track listing:

1 Londonderry Hornpipe / Jenny Dang the Weaver / Sleepy Maggie
2 Dr Keith Strathspey / Miss Barker’s Hornpipe / Carney’s Canter
3 Omar Cheverie’s Jig / Fig for a Kiss / Hector MacDonald’s Jig
4 Pride of the Ball / MacKinnon’s Rant / Lasses of Glenalladale / St Kilda Wedding
5 Bonniest Lass in A’ the World / Emil Gaudet’s Reel / Chetticamp Reel
6 Dallas Rag
7 North Side of the Grampians / Jack Webster’s Reel / Souris Breakwater
8 Rose of Tennessee / Don’t Be Teasing / Whiskey Jig
9 Carlton County Breakdown / Miller’s Reel /Trip to Windsor
10 Where the North River Flows
11 The Marchioness of Tullibardine / Dinky’s Reel/ Little Donald in the Pigpen
12 Hector’s New Dance Hall / Hector’s Fancy / Durang’s Hornpipe
13 Fred Wilson’s Hornpipe / High Level Hornpipe
14 Ottawa Valley Reel / Lad O’Beirne’s / Marie à Pierre
15 The Bonny Lea Rig / Shores of Loughgowna / Teviot Bridge
16 Tennessee Mountain Fox Chase
17 George V’s Army / Mr Murray Strathspey / The Marquis of Huntley / Prince Edward Island Wedding Reel

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At 3:51 am, Blogger Unknown said...

Lovely review, Pat, that made me purchase the CD - having only recently taken up frailing (not the easiest of styles to learn, as a bluegrass player), but I'm enjoying the journey - nice to purchase a CD from an icon in this genre.

At 11:01 am, Blogger Richard Hawkins said...

For anyone making the same journey, this nine-minute video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya5JiVbXfg8) by Bob Flesher should be helpful; the article he wrote for Banjo News Letter (details given on YouTube) certainly is.

At 4:15 pm, Blogger Unknown said...

I bought this as a Christmas present for myself and have it on constantly on the car stereo ever since until yesterday when I saw Ken's friend and fellow Clawhammer maestro Jane Rotsfield at a workshop and house concert at Bob Tracey's house in Clacton-on-sea. I am now listening to her Hen's teeth album but I shall be returning Frails and Frollics in a week or so it is so good. It would be wonderful if Bob Tracey could persuade Ken to do what Janie has done and spread the word in North Essex. It is wonderful to meet artists up close in a non threatening friendly environment and share the music. We lucky ones had a chance to jam with her after her concert.


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