Northern Banjo is something of a new sound for clawhammer and represents in many ways a significant departure from Ken’s previous recordings. The repertoire on the CD is composed primarily of Celtic and Canadian fiddle tunes, most of which Ken collected on Prince Edward Island. The idea behind the project is a banjo-centered ensemble. The banjo powerfully performs these melodies note for note in authentic traditional style, effectively capturing the fiddle’s drive and phrasing. The backup and ensemble arrangements for most cuts, on the other hand, feature “modern” syncopated rhythms, sophisticated harmony lines or counter-melodies performed by a coterie of accomplished musicians.
Some cuts feature guitar and bass back up with fiddle counter melody, others feature elaborate arrangements where the banjo is supported by a full panoply of Irish session instruments in a style reminiscent of such well-known ensembles as the Chieftains and Planxty. There is an original selection called Road to Mexico where the banjo played clawhammer-style steps out as a full-fledged member of a bluegrass band, and three guitar solos where Ken displays his patented fingerstyle versions of Scottish, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island fiddle tunes.
Robert Cormack Aberdeen/Complements to Buddy MacMaster/Fisher's Hornpipe
Lord MacDonald's Reel/The Princess Reel/The Honeymoon
Road to Mexico (by Ken Perlman)
- The Poppy Leaf/Stack of Barley/The East Newk of Bear River. 3:58
- Rock Valley Jig/Light & Airy/The Munster Lass. 3:15
- The Banks Hornpipe/The Democratic Rage/Miss Johnson of Pittworth. 4:14
- Robert Cormack Aberdeen/Complements to Buddy MacMaster/Fisher's Hornpipe. 3:51
- Kenmure's Awa'/Wilfred's Fiddle/Jackson's Jig. 3:09
- Road to Mexico (by Ken Perlman). 3:48
- Guitar Solo: Niel Gow's Lament for His Second Wife. 3:15
- Lord MacDonald's Reel/The Princess Reel/The Honeymoon. 3:17
- The Braes of Auchtertyre/Caber Feidh. 3:31
- Guitar Solo: Lament for James Moray, Abercarney/Dunie Mains/The Chaisson Reel. 4:18
- Shandon Bells/The Orange and Blue /Chorus Jig. 3:13
- Stella's Trip to Kamloops/The Iron Man/Angus Campbell/Dillon Brown/Big John MacNeil. 5:49
- Guitar Solo: The Sweetness of Mary/Mason's Apron. 3:30
- Ken Perlman – clawhammer banjo and fingerstyle guitar
- Most guitar accompaniment – Ken Brown
- Other guitarists – John Rossbach & Jason Fowler
- Fiddle – Sandy MacInture, Oliver Schoerer, James Stephens, & Brian Taheny
- Flute & whistle – Loretto Reed
- Uillean pipes – Pat O’Gorman – uillean pipes
- Mandolin – John Rossbach
- Irish bazouki and resophonic guitar – Brian Taheny
- Bass – David Woodhead
- Percussion – Ben Grossman
Northern Banjo Reviews
Ken’s playing is without peer. The smoothness and clarity of attack with which he presents these highly complex and ornamented tunes is simply magnificent. The arrangements, featuring expert backing while always placing the banjo out front, are wonderful.
On first listening to Ken Perlman’s exquisite new recording, Northern Banjo, I was struck by the fact that no one on the earth could have created this recording except him. It is a tour de force bringing together Ken’s exquisite melodic technique on the banjo, along with his tireless decade-long research into the music of Prince Edward Island.
Old Time Herald
Northern Banjo is a richly woven tapestry… Perlman showers the tunes with notes that are thrown off his banjo as brilliantly as sparks from a fire-works sparkler. Northern Banjo is an album that anyone who loves old fiddle tunes, fine banjo playing, or just good music should thoroughly enjoy.
Impeccable clarity. Every note is brilliant… these tunes, executed in meticulous manner, will captivate and demand your utmost respect for the skill level required. Most Excellent.
Mr. Perlman has done an exquisite job of taking the banjo where no one has gone before.
Canadian Folk Music Bulletin
Here is a recording that has full marks for presentation of instrumental ensemble music. .. this 53- minute CD is a masterpiece… Perlman’s respect for the fiddle traditions of Atlantic Canada should not go unnoticed, nor should his particular field work in PEI. All of this shines through on the recording… this work has delightful power!
Ken’s individual, powerful and greatly musical playing is distinguished by gently crafted, expertly moulded and naturally flowing melodic lines rather than being a mere showcase for breakneck showy picking. Every track’s a delight… it all adds up to a joyous and refreshingly different instrumental release that’s highly recommendable.