Well-Tempered String Band,
Well Tempered String Band
(self-produced, 2002)

Be it a pioneer's faith or a soldier's lament, music has often been the product of or reaction to hard times. Music often serves a communal purpose to share experiences. In their self-titled album, the Well-Tempered String Band collects old-time songs from various periods in our country's history.

The best thing about this album is how the trio conveys the deep emotions that bore these songs in our nation's yesterdays. The WTSB sounds very authentic and heartfelt. Their CD jacket notes they continue to play despite being separated by 122 miles. Their dedication to their music is apparent in their songs -- they are communing through song.

Well-Tempered String Band falls short on neither quality nor quantity. In a time where most albums offer an anemic nine or ten songs, this album is packed with 20 time-tested tracks that offer a pretty broad range of old-time music. Several tracks are either influenced or directly taken from the early 20th century Carter Family recordings, such as the introductory song "Curtains of Night," possibly the group's strongest performance on the album.

There's a bit of gospel-influenced music, such as the sorrowful "It's Me Again Lord" and the lively "River of Jordan" (with a great mandolin). There are songs reacting to significant historical events, such as the Spanish-American War ("Cuban Soldier"), the sinking of Titanic (a very disturbing "Down with the Old Canoe") and the Civil War ("Tenting on the Old Camp Ground"). Anyone hankering for the horse trails will enjoy an old cowgirl song from 1930s Hollywood ("Roll Along Prairie Moon"). Academics will recognize Longfellow's poem "Psalm of Life" and enjoy its lovely and lively combination of guitar and autoharp. The oddest song on the album has to be "Slobberchops is Hungry," from its content (caring for a Newfoundland dog) to the trio's choral resonance.

Well-Tempered String Band should be used in an American history course. There's a cultural wealth of experiences apparent in each of these songs. Anyone who appreciates music with historical context will enjoy this album.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 8 March 2003