Hotpoint Stringband,
The Road to Burhania
(Make 'Em Go Wooo, 2001)

This is an interesting group. According to information found at their website, "Hotpoint is first and foremost a dance band, characterized by their own brand of sizzling hot contradance tunes, high-energy squares, and string swing." They call themselves an eclectic band, and I'd have to agree. The mix of music is the very definition of the word eclectic!

Mark Burhans (fiddle, backing vocals) and Hilarie Burhans (banjo, vocals) are the driving central force of this dynamic group, and they have been playing together for roughly 30 years. Joinging them and rounding out the instrumental dynamics are Marlene Shostak (piano, backing vocals), Mark Hellenberg (doumbek, kanjira, djembe, bodhran, snare, cymbals, other percussive "toys," feet), Joe Crum (didgeridoo, bass), Nick Welland (bass), Rusty Smith (guitar, backing vocals) and Bernie Nau (oboe).

The opening track was a hit with me, as I adore the "feet" when done right, and Mark Hellenberg does a phenomenal job! This medley comprises the traditional piece "Swingin' on a Gate," followed by an original tune by Mark Burhans titled "Round II" and ending with an Al Cantrell tune "Jerry Can Dance," which pays homage to the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. It is an energizing and decidely suitable medley to start.

We are treated to Hilarie's vocals on the traditional piece "The Cuckoo." The banjo accompanies her sultry warbling and carries the melody through its paces.

A medley of "Buffalo Gals/Barlow Knife" ends this blend of energetic eclecticity on a familiar note. Both of these tunes are traditional pieces, and according to the liner notes, they're played here on a little nylon strung S.S. Stewart American Princess banjo. They sound great to me, and Hilarie's vocals blend right in.

According to Mark and Hilarie, "this recording is a travelogue of our adventures in contra dancing -- a musical journey that's brought us the friendship of many great dancers, musicians, and callers. The journey ends where it began: on our front porch, or in the living room, sharing a meal and playing tunes with our friends." It is a delightful disc, filled with a number of classic pieces you will enjoy.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 28 April 2002