During the first August session of the 2007 Maine Fiddle Camp, held each summer in Montville, Maine, George, Fred and Art presented a workshop on “essential dance tune repertoire.” We were heartened by the very positive reception to our efforts and received a number of requests to record a collection of standard tunes. Thus was born The Montville Project: 53 Essential New England Dance Tunes. The enthusiastic reception given that recording has encouraged us to offer another volume of solid tunes we couldn’t cram into volume 1. Piano is the traditional driving rhythmic force used at New England dances, and we are delighted to report that after playing with us at the 2008 Maine Fiddle Camp, Jeremiah McLane agreed to lend his formidable musical talents to this recording.
Intended as a companion to our first album, this recording presents 55 more standard tunes often heard at New England contra and barn dances. Any musical tradition has a core repertoire which experienced players are expected to know. These tunes are part of the common language of dance musicians throughout this region and beyond. As teachers and veteran players, we are often asked by neophytes what are the tunes that are important to learn and add to their repertoires. Herewith we offer 55 more suggestions.
There is no right or wrong way to play these tunes as long as you can dance to the music. At camps and dances we often hear talented young musicians playing these traditional tunes to reggae, world music and groove beats. Our settings are not strictly traditional either, but they lean in that direction.
Art Bryan (tenor banjo, melody banjo, 5-string banjo, mandolin)
Has been playing contra dance, Celtic and old time string band music since 1964 and has performed and recorded with many groups including the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra, Strathspey, String Theory and the Bound to Have a Little Fun Stringband. In January of 2007 Art lost the index and a middle finger of his left hand in a workshop accident, and on this CD he plays with only the ring finger and pinky on his left hand. He and his wife Laurie live in Hancock, NH.
George Fowler (fiddle, baritone fiddle)
Started fiddling in the late 1970s, learning tunes from lobsterman & dance fiddler Albert Collins of South Blue Hill, Maine. In 1981 he became a founding member of Oakum Bay String Band which anchors the first-Saturday dance in Blue Hill, the longest-running contradance in Maine. George has a strong interest in Irish traditional music, plays with the Maine trio Feckless, and for more than 20 years has been host and programmer of "New Potatoes", a Celtic music show heard weekly on WERU-FM. He and wife Pat live in Brooklin, ME.
Jeremiah McLane (piano, accordion, harmonica)
Composer, accordionist and pianist Jeremiah McLane offers a unique blend of Franco-American, Celtic, jazz, and roots influenced music that is at once exuberant and introspective, tender and passionate. In 2005 he started the Floating Bridge Music School, where he teaches traditional and contemporary music. He is a faculty member at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, NY, and also teaches at various summer music camps including Ashokan Fiddle & Dance, Augusta Heritage Arts Center, Centrum’s American Festival of Fiddle Tunes and Maine Fiddle Camp. He is a member of the Clayfoot Strutters, Le Bon Vent, and the popular New England folk trio, Nightingale. He lives in Sharon, VT.
Fred White (guitar, percussion)
For the most recent 30 years Fred has been performing and recording old-time, string band, hillbilly, rockabilly, blues, bluegrass, jazz, swing, minstrels, ragtime and Americana music. His trio, Waxlips, made award winning waves in NC in the mid-80's and he was a founding member the popular PA-based contradance band, Dr. Twamley's Audio Snakes, and the Celtic band Culture Clash. He presently works with Maine conflagrations Frigate, Catharsis, Hay 44, Bondeaux Redux and Improvox. Fred lives with his family in Augusta, Maine.
As with Volume One, our goal in making this album is to present a selection of dance tunes with a variety of rhythms and meters that represent rock-solid basic repertoire of the New England dance tradition. These tunes have stood the test of time; many have been echoing in our dance halls for a century or more and continue to remain popular among contradance musicians. A newcomer to this music, aspiring to become conversant in a core of tunes that others know and play, would be well served by learning some or all of them.
Dance melodies settled into New England from a variety of places, most notably French Canada and the Canadian Maritimes, Ireland, Scotland and England as well as other regions of the United States. While some are now associated almost exclusively with the New England dance tradition, others remain very popular where they originated or, like Moneymusk or Turkey in the Straw, enjoy widespread popularity amongst fiddlers from many traditions. Certain musicians and dance leaders from the contradance revival of the 1960s and 1970s deserve much credit for maintaining and popularizing these tunes; among them are Ralph Page, Dudley Laufman, Bob McQuillen, Rodney & Randy Miller. We’ve included a bit of background information below that we hope you’ll find of interest. A date in parenthesis after a tune’s name indicates its earliest known appearance in a collection or manuscript, but surely many of these tunes were already very popular before appearing in print. We also include the key as we play it, but many of these tunes are also played in other keys. Written music for almost all of them can be readily found in a variety of tune books, and now also appears on-line. Notes on a page, however, are only a faint shadow of what these tunes become in the hands of dance musicians. We invite you to listen, learn some of these great standards, and then join the fun.