So who the heck are you guys?
Fair to Middlin' consists of Anne Darrah, guitar and lead vocals, and Curtis Darrah, on dobro, mandolin, Weissenborn and National steel guitars, even a little old-timey banjo. Oh yeah, and Curtis is known to take an occasional lead vocal on a Woody Guthrie song. Since we're married, it makes it real easy to get together and practice! Anne is a born-on-the-bayou Louisianian, while Curtis is orginally from the Adirondack mountain region of northern New York near the Canadian border. Anne claims they met in the middle with Appalachian music.
How do you describe your music?
We like to think that "mountain music" describes it pretty well. Some bluegrass, some folk, some old-time country roots music, all acoustic cause if thats good enough for Dr. Ralph Stanley, its good enough for us. We do our darndest to live up to to the slogan on our bumper stickers, "Bluegrass is folk music on steroids!" Folkgrass is fat meat and pot likker, not S'mores-around-the-campfire.
Where did you come up with the name Fair to Middlin?
We'll let the Man In Black himself, Johnny Cash, explain that one:
"Strict High Middlin, like the everyday expression 'fair to middlin',' was a grade of cotton. When we got our crop to the gin, they'd take a knife and cut into the bales. The expert would pull the fibers out and fool with them a while, then make his decision, write down the grade, and tie it to the bale of cotton. He'd be looking mostly at the length of the fibers, their strength and their color, and the grades he had to work with, if I remember it right, were Strict High Middlin', High Middlin', Fair to Middlin', Middlin', Low Middlin', and Strict Low Middlin'. Those grades mattered a lot, too: when you got the bales to market, a bale of Strict Low Middlin would go for, say, twenty-eight cents a pound, whereas Strict High Middlin would get you thirty-five cents."
From CASH, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Of course, you could also say it's just the traditional answer to the question
"How ya' doin'?"
Whats the story with the guitar with the shiny coverplate?
The dobro (or resophonic guitar), which we like to describe as the '57 Chevy of the guitar world since it has a hubcap-looking thing on the top, plays an important role in our musical style. Its held flat and played with a steel slide in the left hand and fingerpicks on the right. We love it because it provides the same kind of driving rhythm of a banjo, but has a "singing quality" that fits in well, harmonizes actually, with Annes voice on the ballads.
About the Down Home recording: All original music?
When is it coming out? How do you compose songs?
Not all original, but most of our favorites. Part of the tradition is reinterpreting the old songs. That's what keeps 'em, alive, passing them along to the next generation, as the late Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa used to say. But Curtis also likes to sit down with his instruments and explore, which usually turns into a kickin' instrumental played way too fast for comfort. So we'll definitely have original instrumentals featuring dobro and banjo on the CD. Were hoping to have recording on this first disk wrapped up by year's end, learning curve permitting. We're supplementing tracks recorded with Michael Caffery atWindmill Recording with overdubs and additional recording at our home studio, Home from the Mill <g>. While keeping with our "less-is-more" approach to the tunes, weve also lined up a few special guests for some of the songs.
What kind of bird is that on the Fair to Middlin logo?
A mountain songbird, of course, Anne's alter ego <g>.
Fair to Middlin performs some pretty old-time stuff--
stripped down, back to basics. What do you think people
respond to in your music?
Everything is so disposable now: what's hot this minute, what's the latest trendy thing to be used up and then tossed out into the cultural landfill. But the more sophisticated the world becomes, the more people appreciate the raw emotions of simpler times. It's about honesty. The joy and the sorrow in these songs are powerful: no matter how many years ago they were written, they still ring true. Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, said it best when he spoke of "listening to the ancient tones."
Some have heard this music before, many haven't, but they obviously connect to it. We try to play timeless music, music with guts that connects with something that was around long before we were born and will be here long after we're gone. We love turning an audience on to all of this...and besides, a ripping bluegrass tune just plain kicks butt! We like to think of it as Appalachian opera <BG>.
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