CD Review: Rick Thum - Hammered Fiddle Tunes

Hammered Fiddle Tunes
Golden Slippers - Home Sweet Home - The Meeting House - Missouri - Soldier's Joy - Ragtime Annie/Whiskey Before Breakfast - Blackberry Blossom - Circle Be Unbroken/Old Joe Clark - Country Dance/Petite Valse - Flop Eared Mule - Liberty/Seneca Square Dance

The Hammered Dulcimer is a very interesting musical instrument.  It's actually the forerunner to the piano.  It's played with mallets striking the double strings, much the same as a piano, except the musician 'controls' the mallets, and therefore he/she can control the volume level of each note, the number of times possible to 'bounce' on the strings, the freedom of physical motion that makes this instrument not only a lovely one to listen to, but for the artist a lovely one to play.  Rick Thum has selected a marvelous list of old-time fiddle tunes to emulate.  The 'tradition' of keeping this incredibly delightful music alive demands a 'poet' at the mallets, and an 'engineer' of the ultimate sound produced.  Rick grew up listening to old-time music.  Even as a child he carried a stack of 78rpm records around instead of a security blanket.  He bought his first Hammered Dulcimer in 1989.  He had played guitar before that, but abandoned all to the beauty of this most interesting musical instrument.  It's a historically old music maker from Europe.  Rick does a magnificent job keeping that traditional sound alive and well with these old fiddle tunes.  It's also a way to keep the tunes alive and well. He's joined occasionally by banjo player Steve Craig, especially nice on 'Home Sweet Home' and 'Soldier's Joy.'  I used to play 12-string guitar behind old-time fiddler's here in the upper Midwest.  At first it was a little difficult, they didn't want 12-strings on a guitar.  BUT, I could play backing rhythms very good, and it didn't take long for the fiddler's to mosey up and ask if I'd like to pick a little.  I'm sure this has happened many times to Rick Thum, who also played a 12-string guitar.  So did Michael Nesmith, and he turned into a Monkee. Rick isn't turning into anything, he's already there with his magnificent playing ability.  This album is strictly an instrumental one, but it's a delight to listen to.  You will instantly 'remember' some of the tunes Rick plays so grandly.   "Blackberry Blossom" slowed down a little from the fiddle version, takes us into the 'high notes' of the Dulcimer.  What a treat.  Steve Craig comes in with old-time banjo on this one too, and it's a just-right addition. I'm not familiar with the song "Country Dance/Petite Valse " but my imagination takes me to olden days in France perhaps, where dancing was something other than jumping up and down like a frog which we see so much of today.  Sure enjoyed the addition of an acoustic bass on  "Flop Eared Mule" even though we do not know who it is.  In total, this is one of the best "Hammered Dulcimer" presentations I've ever heard.  Off this one goes to the Rural Roots Music Commission for their appraisal.  Good luck Rick Thum, you are at the head of your class. RECORD REVIEW BY Bob Everhart, President, National Traditional Country Music Association for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

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