Dick Kimmel,
Fishin' Creek Blues
(Copper Creek, 1999)

In the extremely informational booklet for this CD, Dick Kimmel speaks of his fascination with the 5-stringed banjo called the clawhammer. What is even more apparent than his impressive skill with this instrument is his obvious fount of knowledge about the subject as a whole. He has spent much time in the Appalachians picking and strumming with the people there and learning "the old time music," and this authenticity is evident in this, his fifth recording for Copper Creek, a traditional bluegrass label.

The richness of this music in its apparent simplicity and beauty is far more real and of long-lasting merit and appeal than much of the metropolitan slickness that passes itself as folk and country these days. It is a fresh breath of air reminiscent of twilight evenings on the front porch in a slower, more natural time. The energy of Fishin' Creek Blues is snappy and hopping or slow and thoughtful or painfully mournful, but it is always evident and always under the master's control.

Eight of these tunes are traditionals which he learned from pickers and players, both amateur and pro alike. The tunes are "Little Betty Brown," "Chattanooga," "Rufus Rastus," "Greenback Dolly-O," "Dickie's Discovery," "Double File," "Sullivan's Hollow" and "Blue Ribbon Waltz."

Four arrangements feature Kimmel playing the clawhammer banjo solo. These are outstanding in their clarity and are a pure pleasure to listen to, which is not something one can always say of many other banjo styles. The tune "Ian Charles" is one that Kimmel wrote for his son, and "The Hornpipe Medley" is composed of "Fisher's Hornpipe," "Rickett's Hornpipe" and "Staten Island." He also solos on "Pretty Little Dog" and "West Fork Gals."

Other pieces included on this recording are "Waterbound," "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down," another Kimmel composition called "Just Walkin' and Talkin'," and the title track "Fishin' Creek Blues." All of these last four are more bluegrass in tone and maintain the level of excellence and quality that is a common denominator on all the tunes and songs on this CD.

Other artists besides Kimmel -- who plays the clawhammer banjo and provides lead vocals -- whose works appear here are Paul Horrisberger on bass, Jed Malischke on dobro, Gail Heil on fiddle, Eric Mohring on fiddle and tenor vocals, Bob Bovee on harmonica and guitar, Shawn Craver on guitar and Matt Peterson on mandolin.

All of these artists can be proud of the extremely fine work they have done on Fishin' Creek Blues. It is gratifying to listen over and over to sounds that owe their beauty to the love of the genre and medium. Dick Kimmel owes much to the folk tradition, and he honors it by keeping it alive and well instead of making a museum curiosity of it. Thank you, Mr. Kimmel, for a job well done.

[ by Debbie Gayle Rose ]

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