Nat Hewitt and the Reckless Ramblers | Lowdown Hoedown

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Folk: Contra Dance Jazz: Dance Band Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Lowdown Hoedown

by Nat Hewitt and the Reckless Ramblers

This is contra music at its best, with fiddle, guitar, mandolin and bass interplay recalling the sound of the jazz greats, yet remaining solidly in the contra tradition.
Genre: Folk: Contra Dance
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1. Fatal Bert/Bogan's/Baker's Favorite Reckless Ramblers
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3:52 $0.99
2. The Judge Reckless Ramblers
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3:55 $0.99
3. That Sultry Waltz Reckless Ramblers
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3:49 $0.99
4. Lowdown Hoedown/Elzic's Farewell Reckless Ramblers
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3:52 $0.99
5. Glen Echo Jig/Robin's Bohdran/Thingama Reckless Ramblers
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4:05 $0.99
6. The Burnt Leg/The Long Campaign Reckless Ramblers
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3:01 $0.99
7. Steve and Bettie Reckless Ramblers
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3:48 $0.99
8. Door County #2/Sweetbriar Reckless Ramblers
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3:57 $0.99
9. Paddy on the Internet Reckless Ramblers
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3:27 $0.99
10. The Slippery Jig/The Green Reel Reckless Ramblers
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3:12 $0.99
11. La Gima Polka Reckless Ramblers
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2:53 $0.99
12. Cumberland Reckless Ramblers
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4:18 $0.99
13. Lad O'Beirne's/The Phone Call Reckless Ramblers
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4:33 $0.99
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Lowdown Hoedown Reckless Ramblers
+++++++++++++++++
People travel far both to listen and dance to the exciting music of the Reckless Ramblers. Combining creative arrangements with outstanding instrumental performance, Lowdown Hoedown is Contra music at its best. The fiddle, guitar, mandolin and bass interplay recalls the sound of the jazz greats, yet the Ramblers’ music is solidly in the Contra tradition.
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Sam Bartlett – mandolin, tenor banjo,percussion
Nat Hewitt – fiddle, guitar
Ginny Snow – bass
Larry Unger, guitar, banjo uke, resonator guitar
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TUNE LIST
Time
1.Fatal Bert/ Bogan’s/ Baker’s Favorite………………… 3:50
2.The Judge………………………………………………………… 3:54
3.That Sultry Waltz…………………………………………………… 3:47
4.Lowdown Hoedown/ Elzic’s Farewell…………………………… 3:49
5.Glen Echo Jig/ Robin’s Bohdran/ Thingama………………………4:02
6.The Burnt Leg/ The Long Campaign……………………………….. 2:58
7.Steve and Bettie…………………………………………………….. 3:44
8.Door County #2/ Sweetbriar………………………………………... 3:55
9.Paddy on the Internet……………………………………………….. 3:24
10.The Slippery Jig/ The Green Reel…………………………………… 3:09
11.La Gima Polka………………………………………………………. 2:49
12.Cumberland…………………………………………………………. 4:14
13.Lad O’Beirne’s/ The Phone Call……………………………………. 4:33

Total time: 48:08 +++++++++++++++++
Sometimes a dance band is formed around one or two stellar soloists, or sometimes it’s a group of friends who get together regularly and decide to play “out” at the local dance. What’s not so frequent is the phenomenon of four headline instrumentalists from different parts of the country who meet up and perform at a festival, then decide the music is so good they want to record and tour together. That’s the case with the Reckless Ramblers, and, luckily for the fans of contra dance and music, it works.
“Like a lot of good things in life, it sort of just happened,” says Ramblers guitarist and banjo-player Larry Unger. “Nat and I were playing for a dance weekend, and asked Sam and Ginny to join us. The people who heard us really loved the sound, and we decided it could be a pretty exciting band.” That was certainly an understatement, as the music in this recording shows. With a wealth of experience in many kinds of traditional music among them, the quartet set out to record the music, as they would play it for dancers. “All four of us are fond of playing in lots of different styles,” says Unger, “and we tried to include many of those influences on Lowdown Hoedown, but we approach it primarily as dance music. That means playing rhythmically, accenting the different figures, and always keeping one eye on the dance floor.”
When it comes to fiddling for the dance floor, Nat Hewitt’s name is usually one of the first to come up. He and Unger have worked together for years, and, since both are multi-instrumentalists, have a special rapport when it comes to blending rhythm and melody. “Although he plays old-time, Irish, and other styles, “Unger says, “Nat’s really not a genre-oriented fiddler: he’s a dance-oriented fiddler.” Nowhere is that more evident than in the Sligo reel “Lad O’Beirne’s,” where Hewitt’s intonation captures the listener’s complete attention, or in “Door County #2,” where he switches effortlessly between melody and rhythmic double-stopped shuffles. And in “The Judge,”he shines on lead guitar, providing a Django Reinhart-like groove.
“Improbable licks that you could never write out” is how Unger describes Sam Bartlett’s mandolin improvisations. “He’s such a multi-faceted musician, and he’ll try anything.” Some of those licks can be heard in the reel “Baker’s Favorite,” where Bartlett’s mandolin dances around the melody laid down by Hewitt’s fiddle. Bartlett also adds the four stringed tenor banjo to the Ramblers sound; both on melody in the jig “Robin’s Bodhran,” and as a low-down rhythmic twist to the reel “Lowdown Hoedown.”
“The combination of ‘Lowdown Hoedown’ and ‘Elzic’s’ is one of my favorite moments on the recording,” Bartlett says. “One of the amazing things about that tune, and all of Larry’s tunes, is that they sound finished: almost traditional. He has a knack for getting right to the point of a tune. We had such an exciting time during that particular session: there’s something really great about the way those tunes sound together.” Of the twenty two tunes on Lowdown Hoedown fourteen were composed by Unger, who Bartlett dubs “the Irving Berlin of dance music.”
Listen to the interplay among the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin in the “Glen Echo Jig/Robin’s Bodhran/Thingama” medley: the way Unger doesn’t just lay down the beat, but actually enhances the character of the tune with the chords he chooses; or to the achingly lovely waltz “Cumberland,” and you know that it’s Unger’s compositions and playing that are at the heart of the Ramblers sound.
Although their instrumentation is similar to the Appalachian string band sound of masters like Tommy Jarrell and Ralph Stanley, the Ramblers sound is unique. “We’re a contra dance band, first and foremost,” says Unger. Within the genre of contra music, it’s unusual to find a band that succeeds without a piano. The music has been piano driven for so many decades that, for most of us, it seems to be de rigueur. One of the reasons for the Ramblers’ strings-only success is the bass playing of Ginny Snowe. “Ginny’s more active than the average dance bass player,” says Larry Unger. She’s such fun to work with because she can add runs in unexpected places, while keeping the beat strong. She can also change the way I play if I listen carefully to what she’s doing: she makes me play more rhythmically. “
Although he cites the skills of Lowdown producer Pete Sutherland and engineer Mark Wessel, Unger admits that recording in a studio lacks the element of the dynamic interaction between band and dancers. “Although the four of us love playing together and inventing new ways to approach the music, we always miss the dancers, and the immediate feedback they give us,” he says. “We certainly love the tunes, both new and traditional, but if it weren’t for the dancers, well, it just wouldn’t be any fun!”

Mary DesRosiers, Harrisville, New Hampshire
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Produced by Pete Sutherland, recorded at Blue Jay Studio, Mark Wessel, engineer, Mixes and Mastered at Charles Eller Studios, Lane Gibson, engineer, Photos by Jodi Zeisal and Tiffany Thompson, Car Illustration by Sam Bartlett, Graphic design by Carolyn Isaac, Keene, NH

Contacts for musician’s books, CDs and for gigs:
Larry Unger www.larryunger.net, Nat Hewitt www.nathewitt.com,
Sam Bartlett samnabby@bluemarble.net

Great Meadow Music® P.O.Box 4, Westmoreland, NH 03467
(603) 399-8361 www.greatmeadowmusic.com
© (P) 2006 All Rights Reserved


Reviews


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Thomas Hanson

ReckLess Ramblers
Great Album, lively tracks, nice mixture of styles.