"It's difficult to be a music critic and come across performers who leave you absolutely speechless. You're lost in the sheer joy of experiencing a music whose impact can't really be explained. What makes music great is when it makes your hair stand on end, when it provokes a response rooted in the blood, not the brain. That's why I gave up trying to write about Stecher and Brislin. " - Jack Purdy, City Paper, Baltimore.
"Their music captures the essence and core of traditional music. Their bare-bones approach to this art form ranks them among the legends". - Pete Kuykendall, editor Bluegrass Unlimited.
"Kate Brislin is perhaps the finest traditional country singer on the West Coast. She has one of the truly rich, moving voices in folk music, uniquely evocative and perfectly suited to her material". - Randy Pitts, Down Home Music
"The level of imagination that Jody brings to his playing and the depth of emotion evident in his vocal delivery can be uncanny." -Ken Hunt, Folk Roots
Album Notes to RETURN
Welcome. We’re back with more gems from the song mines. The songs here feature moors, mermaids and mandolins, faith and home, all sorts of feelings, and a whole lot of water.
Boat’s Up The River has been in our repertoire for a long time, like most of the songs here. Jody’s playing a 19th century banjo strung with classical guitar strings tuned low.
Every Bush and Tree was written by Otis Pierce, the toughest hombre we’ve ever met. Pierce’s Park, his bar in Sanger, California had a rough clientele. Otis would lift em by the collar and toss em out the door, two at once if necessary. Kate’s band Any Old Time, all girls in their 20s, played there in 1979. Otis escorted them to their vehicle and a mass of bikers parted like the Red Sea.
Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand was the first song we ever sang together when we met at the great confluence of Expo 74 in Spokane.
We’ve tried to catch some of Sara Carter’s soaring singing, unusual phrasing, and galloping rhythm on Somebody’s Boy, a neglected gem from the 1927 “Bristol Sessions.”
Our version of Gunboat was inspired by West Virginia fiddlers, especially Tom Dillon. Old Time Back Step Cindy has long been one of our favorites.
Lal Waterson’s demo tape of her song Fine Horseman was the template for our version of this deep haunting song, which evokes in us the feel of the Yorkshire moors.
Beautiful was composed in 1897 by Barney Warren in 12/8 time with chromatic passages that evoked Heaven as cocktail lounge cum mortuary. The Blue Sky Boys squared it up and made it truly righteous.
Rivers of Texas seems to have been well known in Texas and even sung in class by school kids. We’ve turned and tumbled it and batted it around until we found a way to sing it that felt right.
Hazel Dickens wrote Old Calloused Hands and directed us to the song. We sang it for years before we realized that Hazel wrote this about her own sister. Knowing that changed how we sing it. So much meaning can be put into just two words: “those years”.
On The Mermaid (Child 289) Jody is playing a 1930s Cammeyer Vibrante Royal zither-banjo strung with steel, gut, copper and silk, which is what zeebees were designed for. Our version includes bad luck Friday sailing, the mermaid’s warning, and a supernatural atmosphere.
Our version of Old Cottage Home arose as Jody pondered how the Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence might play it. Jody is playing his mother’s old Raphael Ciani guitar. It was his first instrument, now strung with nylgut.
In 1965 Jody learned to play slide guitar (using a Sears socket wrench) during an intense week of playing second guitar with Mississippi Fred McDowell. Our version of Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning reflects the Blind Willie Johnson record as well as Fred’s beautiful way with this song.
Old Buddy Goodnight is a treasure from Utah Phillips that not many people have heard. We learned it from Larry Hanks.
Wherever West Virginia fiddler Melvin Wine played, he’d be surrounded by listeners and musicians. Melvin decided that a revolving center would be good for the stationary circumference. He came up with a contraption that was part bicycle seat and part rubber tipped pogo stick. Mid-tune he’d jump up and spin and suddenly he was facing a new portion of his audience. Jody learned The Rainy Day in 1990 while playing mandolin with Melvin during a lull in his ker-sproings. We learned Pretty Little Widow from a recording of fiddler Glen Smith.