Tom, Brad & Alice,
We'll Die in the Pig Pen Fighting
(Copper Creek, 2001)

Although it doesn't tell you on the liner notes, Tom, Brad & Alice are actually Tom Sauber, Brad Leftwich and Alice Gerrard, three veteran old-time musicians, much of whose previous work I've enjoyed. I have to confess, however, that this particular CD left me less than enthralled. Although it's performed flawlessly, there's little else here to differentiate it from the hundreds of other banjo/fiddle/guitar old-time recordings that cover similar territory.

A little of this music can go a long way, since there's minimal variation in the individual tunes here. They're played over and over again the same way, with possibly an A part and a B part to provide a semblance of variety. The tempos, quick and bouncy, are similar in most of the tunes, and the vocals in the few tunes that have them are primarily nonsensical rhythmic chants. The music is played well, but quickly grows boring to the point where the liner notes become more interesting than what you're hearing.

There are a few tunes that break the monotony: "Dora Dean" is more bluesy and goes into a minor key on the B part, "Rattler Treed a Possum" gives us some nonsense lyrics in nice three-part harmony, "Greasy Coat" and "Devilish Mary" both have a more modal sound, "Ship in the Clouds" has some interesting chord changes, there's an intriguing fiddle drone that starts and ends "Lost John," and a waltz tempo and autoharp differentiate the "Ozark Waltz" from the rest of the pack.

If you like old-time music played in the old-time way, or if you have an old-time band and are looking to widen your repertoire or listen to masters of the genre playing at the top of their form, this CD will be right up your alley. However, the lover of bluegrass or acoustic string music in general may not find much of interest here. Like so much old-time music, what you'll hear here are pleasant tunes, brilliantly if unimaginatively played, which seldom engage this listener, at least, on more than a surface level.

[ by Chet Williamson ]
Rambles: 2 February 2002

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