Album Reviews

Marah – Mountain Minstrelsy Of Pennsylvania (Diller Farm Songs)

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Marah Mountain Minstrelsy Of PennsylvaniaOriginally from Conshohocken, Pennslvania, Marah has undergone a plethora of style changes and group members. They caught the attention of keen music fans and red-hot peers in the early ’90’s (when the group consisted of brothers Dave and Serge Bielanko and a superb rhythm section) with their mind-blowing live shows and pop-rock perfect compositions.Serge eventually left, but Dave plowed ahead, and in the spirit of his eclectic tastes, Marah continued to release intelligent, mind expanding releases. Dave and the wild, exploratory Christine Smith came across an obscure book of century old song lyrics gathered and penned for future curious American historians and music lovers compiled by one Mr. Henry Shoemaker. The project, featuring Dave, Christine, and 8 year-old fiddle prodigy Gus Tritsch, took upon a life of it’s own. Writing original music coming from what’s become tagged as a “ghost world,” the pair purposely left open the doors to the dusty, physically abandoned house of worship as they laid down their favorite cuts in an off-the-cuff analog studio As a result, the project brought in a bevy of curious local musicians, including tuba players, bagpipers, tap dancers, whistlers, and barbershop singers, as well as a spirited crowd of backup singers and a memorable batch of clappers and joyous backup singers. Sometime members Kai Schafft and Jimmy Baughman helped steer this collection of historically necessary tracks, and after a long cold winter filled with musical must-haves, Mountain Minstrelsy was born.

The cuts are so eclectic musically and filled with the heavenly, reworked magic that the album is nearly impossible to classify, in today’s cut-and-paste, here-today-gone-tomorrow world where a terrifying number of music, movie, and TV shows consists of  hordes of little or no attention span consumers, this album stands out as one that will still be required listening a century from now. “The Falling Of The Pine” kicks things off, with Dave’s memorable pipes ringing proudly above fiddle and a host of the contributors mentioned above. “A Melody Of Rain” marches down your ears and nestles there for eternity and beyond, Christine’s old-school take (with Gus on a knock ’em dead one-take banjo). A total of eleven powerfully forged tunes come together and, like a forgotten tome of it’s time, defies space and time and proudly lays out that “ghost world” for those who take the time to digest it. If you don’t own this release, you may as well toss any “History  Of…” American time and geographical breakdown out the window. A genuine slice of this country’s history, Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania is absolutely necessary listening.

– Tom Hallett

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