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High energy bluegrass, old-time folk and Americana roots music,
The impetus for this CD was a very special evening of music broadcast live on KRVS 88.7 FM Public Radio on September 29, 2000. That night we were joined by our friend and favorite fiddler, Michael Doucet, for a performance at The Art House in Lafayette, La.
It was a memorable evening and were happy to be able to preserve and share some of it on this CD. As lagniappe (thats Louisiana French for a little something extra) we added a few live Home From The Mill recordings of songs that weve performed during guest appearances on KRVS Medicine Ball Caravan.
TO ORDER YOUR COPY, send a check or money order for $12 per disc [payable to Curtis & Anne Darrah], along with your mailing address, to P.O. Box 91606, Lafayette, LA 70509. Orders outside the U.S., please e-mail for shipping costs and special ordering info
OR ALSO AVAILABLE FOR $11.99
June 12, 2001
New CD from Fair to Middlin captures the excitement of live old-time radio
Lafayette, La.--From the first Grand Ole Opry broadcast of the 1920s to todays Prairie Home Companion, rootsy folk music has connected with audiences through live radio broadcasts. The Lafayette, La., acoustic duo Fair to Middlin recaptures the excitement of live on the air with their first CD release, Turn Your Radio On: Fair to Middlin Captured Live!
Old mountain bluegrass standards, a Dust Bowl ballad, country blues plus new songs that tap into the bedrock of the old-time folk tradition are the heart of the recording. Most of music on this disc was originally broadcast live during a special concert September 29, 2000, on KRVS 88.7 FM Public Radio and worldwide on the Internet through louisianaradio.com.
Fair to Middlin features Anne Darrah on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, seasoned with husband Curtis resophonic guitar (dobro), mandolin, old-time banjo, Weissenborn acoustic slide guitar and vocals. They were joined for that live broadcast from The Art House in Lafayette, La., by fiddler Michael Doucet.
That show was a blastspontaneous and full of surprisespeople still tell us how much they enjoyed that evening, Curtis explained. So when we heard the broadcast tapes later, we loved how they captured the energy of that night. Raw and spunkyfull of the fun that gets filtered out when you sit down to do a studio recording.
And we were thrilled to have Michael playing with us that night, added Anne. When the leader of Grammy-winning BeauSoleil, Americas premiere Cajun band, wants to pull out his fiddle and play some kitchen music with you, youre in for a treat.
Seven songs were selected from that evenings broadcast, ranging from high-energy bluegrass to old-time folk and Americana roots music. No fancy recording tricks, just wood, wires, steel and voices laid down live to two tracks and broadcast as it occurred. Compared to a fussed-over and perfect studio recording, its more pot likker and fatmeat, Curtis explained. No fillers or additives, just certified 100-percent-pure acoustic roots music.
Mountain soul is captured in the centuries-old murder ballad Down in the Willow Garden and in Gillian Welchs heartrending modern classic Annabelle. The threesome turns Ralph Stanleys If I Lose into a country hoedown seasoned with driving mandolin and Doucets masterful fiddling. A galloping old-timey take on a legendary horse race, Molly & Tenbrooks, offers a tip of the Stetson to the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Anne Darrahs powerful vocals drive a slide and fiddle-rich rendition of I Know You Rider. And with the audience clapping along, Curtis turn at the lead vocal mic turns the clock back to the 1930s with Woody Guthries Do Re Mi. Wrapping up the broadcast cuts is a powerful rendition of a favorite Fair to Middlin show closer, the chilling Caleb Meyer. Annes haunting vocals and minor-tuned rhythm guitar build momentum for a hard-driving closing jam where Curtis mandolin backs Doucets fiery improvisation on this ghostly killin song.
Trading licks with Michael on this tune was a thrill: I had to keep reminding myself to stay focused and not get lost listening to his amazing fiddle work, Curtis joked.
As lagniappe but in keeping with the radio theme, the Darrahs added four live home-studio versions of songs theyve performed during appearances on KRVS Medicine Ball Caravan show. The CD opens with another song familiar from the duos live sets, the old-time bluegrass murder ballad Poor Ellen Smith. The remaining three cuts are Fair to Middlin original instrumentals. In the dobro-driven breakdown Big Tupper, they visit a favorite lake in the Adirondack mountains of northern New York. The other two instrumentals highlight the old-time banjothe spirited Possum on the Porch backed by Annes booming Martin and the haunting solo banjo coda to the recording, Its A Long Journey Home.
The 11-song disc was released June 12 on their own
label, Home From The Mill Recordings. Its available direct for $12
(including shipping) by sending a check payable to Curtis & Anne Darrah
to P.O. Box 91606, Lafayette, LA 70509. The disc is also available at Louisiana
Heritage and Gifts in Lafayette or through the Louisiana Music Factory in
New Orleans, including online
orders. Further information is available
on Fair to Middlins Web site, www.folkgrass.com,
or by calling 337-367-3316.
REVIEWS, OffBEAT, New Orleans and Louisianas Music Magazine
Its a long way from the mountains to the bayous but in this case, the Lafayette husband-and-wife team of Curtis and Anne Darrah manage to bring the two a little closer with their pleasurable folky-grass music. Recorded last year at Lafayettes Art House for a live radio broadcast, the couples music recalls the way records used to be waxed, live and in the studio of a radio station like so many of the old Carter Family records. During the course of their enchanting set, the haunting, crystalline-voiced Anne (rhythm guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Curtis (resophonic guitar, mandolin, banjo, Weissenborn) cover a lot of territory from Gillian Welch (Annabelle, Caleb Meyer) to Woody Guthrie (Do Re Mi), Bill Monroe (Molly & Tenbrooks) and Ralph Stanley (If I Lose). In between, theres fine public domain staples such as I Know Your Rider, a song every Deadhead knows by heart. But importantly, they show theyre more than just interpreters with originals Big Tupper, and the peppy-steppin hoe-down instrumental Possum on the Porch. Michael Doucet of the Grammy award-winning BeauSoleil joins the foray on seven cuts, usually contributing soulful, ethereal licks while getting a chance to play outside his regular idiom. Based on the audiences approving reaction, they recognized a good thing when they heard it. A good reason to keep your radio on.
Fair to Middlin
It would seem impossible that Gillian Welchs beautifully elegiac Annabelle could be made more mournful, but thats just what Fair to Middlin did on their new record, Turn Your Radio On.
The local folkgrass duo of Anne and Curtis Darrah, joined on the live tracks by friend BeauSoleil fiddler Michael Doucet, slow the tempo to a quiet heartbeat, and Annes gossamer voice floats ruefully over the pluck of Curtis resophonic guitar and the whining lamentations of Doucets fiddle.
Its a perfect combination that brings out the desperation and searching --- and the resignation to providence for a dead little girl --- of a beautiful song.
And so it goes for the rest of the record, a great combination of songs old and new, timeless and timely, up-tempo and down. What unites the tracks is an evident and abiding devotion by the Darrahs to this old-time country, bluegrass and folk music.
The albums title refers to the fact that most of the songs here were recorded live in September 2000 during a concert at The Art House.
I was a great show; I was there.
Unfortunately, an audio record can never capture the smiles, nods and grins of cornbread satisfaction on the audiences face, nor the periodic looks of amazement that something so simple, so damned un-digital, can be so good.