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Reviews for "Land of Rest"


One Stop Country

With the country music Top 40 focused on innovation and moving the brand of the genre forward, the crucial thing that is missing is an honoring of the past. With Land of Rest, the third album from Massachusetts based The Ephemeral Stringband, they not only honor of the past but they bring you directly to it. The album features the fiddle playing of Tatiana Hargreaves and gives our ears an American roots sound that incorporates several different aspects of music into it including traditional gospel, bluegrass, and old time string band sounds. “Josie Girl” opens the album and instantly gets your toes tapping as you are transported back in time. A similar feel continues as you move forward into the album on songs like the instrumental “Lost Girl” and “Five Miles From Town.” By the middle of the album you are already hooked as they take you to a gathering on the front porch with songs like “Sally Coming Through The Rye” and “Ruby Ridge.” However, with the slower paced numbers a different element is fused in as they bring to light a spiritual aspect through the lyrics on songs like “The Cradle, The Coffin, The Cross On The Hill” and “God’s Promise,” which features the male leads of Tim Dolan. Harmonies are a key to their signature sound and they are well on display throughout the album. The traditional instruments like fiddle and banjo are prominent and the musicianship of them is shown on the instrumentals that are fitted in at the perfect spots in your listening experience. Where so many artists fall short with over production and too much modern fused in to what they consider a “throwback sound”, The Ephemeral Stringband succeeds in keeping their sound 100 % old timey and because of it, this album refreshingly feels more like a lost album from the past than something released today.



The Ephemeral Stringband with Tatiana Hargreaves. Land of Rest.
2014. self-released.

This is a lovely little disc of old-time tunes and songs from Massachusetts-based The Ephemeral Stringband. It helps, of course, that they’ve enlisted the help of amazing old-time fiddle prodigy Tatiana Hargreaves (even as a very young kid she was eerily chanelling Bruce Molsky), but Ephemeral banjo player Maggie Shar can more than hold her own with Tatiana and their interplay, the core of any old-time stringband, is a delight. Nice singing from Maggie, Tim Dolan, and Molly Merrett as well and they’ve got interesting harmonies throughout. Shouts to Tim’s mandolin playing which had a lot of earthy soul in it. It’s also great that the band draws from a lot of diverse sources to pull forth their songs and tunes. “Weeping Mary” is a particularly lovely track, close to a version I’d heard from Sam Amidon, but pulled from the Sacred Harp tradition. “The Cradle, The Coffin, the Cross on the Hill” comes from Dirk Powell, one of the best old-time songwriters. Nice to see love for key elder fiddlers as well, from Charlie Acuff to Lester McCumbers and Clyde Davenport. This is a great album of New England old-time with delightfully interesting takes on the Appalachian traditions.

-devon leger


Bluegrass Unlimited


No Label, No Number. Aficionados of old-time music should appreciate this new release from the New England-based group. The Ephemeral String Band is Molly Merrett (guitar, banjo, fiddle), Maggie Shar (banjo), Tim Dolan (mandolin, guitar), and special guest here is Tatiana Hargreaves (fiddle). Pulling from string band, country, gospel, shape-note, and bluegrass sources, the band has put together an enticing project of well-executed playing and vocal harmonies. Source material from Charlie Acuff, the Five Blind Boys From Alabama, Peter Rowan, Dirk Powell, the Skillet Lickers, Jimmy Martin, and Clive Davenport are sprinkled throughout the project in a mix of hot-tempo instrumentals, mournful ballads, and gospel. Selections include “Stormy Waters,” “Ruby Ridge,” “Midnight,” “Weeping Away,” “Sally Coming Through The Rye,” and “Hell Broke Loose In Georgia.” Molly Merrett contributes two originals “Drown” and “The Night.” Nicely done for this young group.


The Year’s Best Traditional Folk Album:
RUNA, Current Affairs

Sam Amdion is always a strong shower in this category; it goes without saying that this year’s release, Lily O, was well-received, and well worth the wait, not hardly because in both sound and songchoice it hews closer to the old than ever, eschewing his popwanderings of previous years to stick firmly to the long-form tradition, filtered through Amidon’s familiar stew of creaky shapenote and oldtimey forms.

But Amidon had plenty of competition in 2014, from all corners of the traditional world. Our favorites include two irish and celtic influenced folk supergroups, The Alt and RUNA, and of all of them, the self-titled album from The Alt is perhaps the most traditional, too, with an evocative songbook of irish fiddle tunes and ancient numbers played out masterfully by veteran virtuosos John Doyle, Eamon O’Leary, and Nuala Kennedy. Meanwhile, our preference for singer-songwriter fare tips our sails towards RUNA’s Current Affairs, which is heavy on traditional numbers (including several right out of the Child Ballads), but with a few songs pulled from a more modern tradition; their glee and respect are apparent in every track, and their transformation of Amos Lee’s Black River into a joyful irish lullaby is nothing short of a miracle.

On this side of the pond, as we predicted in July, Old Crow Medicine Show bandleader Willie Watson’s solo foray into the American folk tradition matches the field, with its “delicate, spare series of covers and traditional songs, stripped down to the raw and intimate essentials of one man, one instrument, and a voice that evokes a hundred years of source material from the blues and folk canons.” And finally, although they’re still an opening act in our favorite folk clubs, we’re quite proud to recommend uber-local tradfolk trio The Ephemeral Stringband, whose sidewalk shows in Amherst and Northampton had my kids enthralled, and whose new 2014 album Land of Rest with fiddler Tatiana Heargraves is a tight, restrained collection of true-blue old-time banjo, guitar, and mando-driven country music and shapenote gospel tunes so true, you can hear the front porch swing in the breeze.



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