Bob Buckingham (Fiddler Magazine, Summer 2001)
This CD is intended as a companion to The Portland Collection, a fine book of contra dance tunes that has sold over 5000 copies. George Penk is the fiddler and a fine one he is. Contra dance music tends to lean toward the Celtic side and George is in full control. When he tackles a southern piece like "Liza Jane" or "Sally Ann Johnson,' he is equally at home. He is joined by the musicians whose names appeared on the book. Clyde Curley plays mandolin as well as octave mandolin and 4-string banjo. He tastefully switches between playing the melody and counterpoint or a harmony line, adding a subtle complexity to each dance set. Susan Songer is a piano accompanist par excellence. Her pulsing chord work with its fluid syncopation is the groundwork upon which George and Clyde work. The recording quality is top notch, as are the interesting arrangements. The medleys give us examples of how these tunes can be linked for a dance. Those who are book-bound should take note that these musicians have taken the music beyond the limits of the written page as all good folk musicians are apt to do. If you have been enjoying the book, it is time now to hear the tunes and the authors playing them.
Â© Copyright 2001 Fiddler Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Brian Peters (Living Tradition), April, 2002
I undertake this review out of enthusiasm rather than duty. When I was sent the excellent contradance tune book The Portland Collection for review in another magazine, I became so entranced by the CD that arrived with it, that I resolved to review it in its own right for LT. It's a defiantly home-produced release, with no named label or catalogue number, and the three musicians - from Portland, Oregon - are so unassuming they don't even have a band name. What they have produced, though, is as good an example of unpretentious, beautifully -played dance music as you could ever wish to hear. Leading the line is George Penk, a terrific fiddler with precision, great rhythmic attack, and enviable sweetness in the upper register, standing comparison with far more celebrated players. Contradance musicians are notoriously eclectic, and the selection contains tunes from New England, Quebec, the Appalachians, Ireland and Scotland, together with recent compositions, but rather than approach them with some homogenised, catch-all technique, Penk handles each in its appropriate style, executing lovely triplets and rolls for the Irish pieces and driving ahead of the beat for the old-timey material. The support is no less accomplished: Clyde Curley, on mandolin, mandola and tenor banjo, supplies a subtle mixture of chording, unison melody and delicate harmony lines, while Sue Songer's piano invests the rhythm with irresistible lift, resisting the excessive syncopation that's all too common these days. As an ensemble the three are very, very tight. The tunes themselves are great, too. Marcel Messervier's Hommage À Edmond Parizeau is as joyous an opening track as I've heard in years, Damon's Winder and Two Wide Nickels are fine old-timey fiddle workouts, Shetland's Millbrae is kicked along by banjo and particularly crunchy fiddle, while Father Kelly's Reel is slowed down to produce a fine air. Dammit, they even make The Mason's Apron sound fresh and exciting. This CD has hardly been out of my player these past few months!. Contra is beginning to catch on in England these days, and some musicians here are already trying out tunes from the Portland Collection (which Songer and Curley produced). If you want an outstanding role model for playing this, or indeed any other, kind of dance music, go to www.theportlandcollection.com and they'll tell you how to order a copy. Trust me on this one!
Â© Copyright 2002 Living Tradition. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.
Bruce E. Baker (Dirty Linen, February/March, 2002)
Most folks interested in contra dance music or in fiddling in general have come to know The Portland Collection, a wonderful tune book published in 1997. Now the creators of that collection, Susan Songer and Clyde Curley, have come out with a CD featuring 36 of the tunes from that book. Leading the way on most tunes is fiddler George Penk, who has the sort of precise rhythm and snap to his playing one expects from a good dance fiddler. Songer's piano provides a strong rhythmic base for nearly all the tracks, leaving Clyde Curley to augment either melody on mandolin or four-string banjo, or rhythm on octave mandolin. The music is well played throughout, adapting the peculiarities of various traditions (Irish, Appalachian, Quebecois) to the clean, smooth style demanded by contra dancers. As with the printed collection, this recording features a number of the most popular recently composed tunes that have found their way into the tradition. The notes on the tunes are extensive and interesting.
Â© Copyright 2002, Dirty Linen, www.dirtylinen.com. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.