Scroll Through All Reviews or Choose From Among The Following Selections:
- Reviews of The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island
- Reviews of Northern Banjo
- Reviews of Island Boy
- Reviews of Devil in the Kitchen
- Reviews of Clawhammer Banjo & Fingerstyle Guitar Solos
- Reviews of The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island
- Reviews of Clawhammer Style Banjo Instructional Video
- Reviews of Clawhammer Style Banjo Book
- Reviews of Melodic Clawhammer Banjo Book
- Reviews of New England & Irish Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo (now Basic Clawhammer Banjo)
- Reviews of Fingerpicking Fiddle Tunes (the Mel Bay edition was known as Traditional Dance Tunes for Acoustic Guitar )
Concert Reviews and Previews
Cleveland Plain Dealer by Michael SanGiacomo, Jan. 22, ’96
“Ken Perlman Makes the Difficult Look Easy”… Ken Perlman, known around the world for his skill on the five-string melodic clawhammer banjo made the difficult look simple for an audience of about 100 people that sat transfixed at his concert. It was fascinating the way plucking the strings in a different style can so alter the sound from the familiar banjo to a punchier yet sweeter product. Perlman alternated on the banjo and guitar, performing new songs along with ones that were old before Cleveland got its name. Many of the tunes were songs he adapted for the banjo from traditional fiddle songs of the Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia, and the tiny Prince Edward Island that hangs off the coast. These were where Scottish and Irish settlers made their homes… These were the songs of the fishermen, the soldiers, the farmers settling in a strange, new land. And for most of the songs, Perlman had no words. He communicated the feelings … with nothing more than his fingers dancing on the strings. His vocal choices were interesting, his explanation of the songs even more so… His songs were witty, amiable and engaging.
Australia Concert Reviews on the Web by Jim Low, Feb. ’98
Renowned as possibly the world’s greatest banjo player, and inventor of the melodic clawhammer style that has turned frailing into a new melodic art, Ken Perlman was in SYDNEY from his home in the US… He appeared at the Sutherland Folk Club, held at the Sutherland District Trade Union Club Tuesday January 20 at 8pm… I first heard the name Ken Perlman back in 1990 when I purchased a copy of one of his books, “Clawhammer Style Banjo.” When I heard recently that he was coming to Sutherland Folk Club to play I decided it would be well worth hearing him. Indeed it was… An unpretentious performer, within a few minutes it was obvious we were being entertained by a remarkably skilled musician. The richness and delicacy of his playing complimented by his interesting selection of tunes, made it a wonderful evening of music. The tunes from Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island stand out in my memory. They have been transcribed by Ken from his meetings with a hundred or so fiddlers from that area.
Glasgow Herald (Scotland: May 9, ’87)
American Ken Perlman is a virtuoso exponent of the clawhammer banjo… and in addition a most impressive finger picker on guitar.He really made the banjo chuckle; at speed there was no loss of detail in the frailing. But on the slower material he showed the expert hands; the five string banjo can have a lyric voice too.Ken Perlman’s playing is full of the sort of intricacy that the aficionado could appreciate and learn from, but the 5-string banjo makes such an approachable sound that the performance was full of popular appeal. The rhythmic insistence that is at the heart of the clawhammer style can if the playing is not up to standard become monotonous. Perlman however laid on plenty of fizz and flash to cover his bass notes. He showed too in a glorious parody of the bluegrass sound, that really he can make his instrument do more or less anything he wants it to.” Mr. Perlman’s accounts on guitar of Irish tunes were enrapturing and in splendid contrast to the more rumbustious banjo pieces.
Memphis Dateline (Concert Preview by Fetzer Mills, Sept 15-30, 1998)
Ken Perlman is a member of a relatively rare breed, a musician who plays authentic folk music and makes a living at it. Perlman’s take on folk music, while innovative, is not pop/folk, but the pure stuff. He plays an ancient style of banjo known as ‘clawhammer’ or ‘frailing,’ which for the past half-century has been overshadowed by the flashier, faster Earl Scruggs-style banjo playing. The music Perlman chooses to play includes traditional Celtic and southern fiddle tunes that he has arranged for banjo and guitar. Perlman has been making his living purely from music since the 1970’s. He teaches clawhammer-style banjo, writes instructional books and music, and has played and conducted workshops all over the world. The style of clawhammer which he pioneered, is called melodic clawhammer, which has transformed clawhammer from an accompaniment style to a solo style.
His most recent music has been strongly influenced by the fiddle players of Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Perlman traveled to Prince Edward Island and while there encountered the indigenous fiddle players of the island. He was hooked. Soon after, he was back making field recordings under the auspices of Earthwatch. During six months of collecting, he recorded close to 100 fiddle players and hundreds of hours of audio and video tape.
Reviews of Ken Perlman Recordings
Reviews for The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island (Mel Bay Publications)
Fiddler Magazine (Fall ’96)
This publication deserves fulsome praise. Undoubtedly, it rates as the most important published contribution yet made to the study of a Canadian Maritime fiddle tradition. This study is a wonderful contribution because it so carefully and thoroughly analyzes and records the music of a dynamic fiddling tradition. The book is attractive, with a beautiful cover coastal scene of the Island, the text is interspersed with photographs of Island fiddlers…Indeed the entire study is the result of extensive study and careful thought.With The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island, Perlman achieves his aims to provide a portrait of the Island fiddling style, to offer a guide for those who want to learn this style, and to present a useful fiddle tunebook. I highly recommend this new study to all students of Canadian Maritime fiddling and congratulate Perlman for his excellent achievement.
The Fiddle Web Website (Feb. ’97)
Several years of meticulous research, recording, and transcribing have resulted in this exhaustive and wonderful book on the fiddling of Prince Edward Island… Perlman’s book has quality, quantity, integrity and impeccable research behind it. For any fiddler interested in Maritime tunes, I highly recommend it.
Acoustic Musician (Feb. ’97)
An extensive and impressive body of work… Upon having my accomplished, fiddlin’ wife play through a handful of tunes and then listening to the corresponding pieces on the accompanying CD it was clear — Mr. Perlman cut no corners. All the ornamentation was right on. It took some serious scholarship to put this together. Very interesting and well done.
Fiddlers’ Crossing Catalog (1997)
Ken Perlman has done a truly remarkable job with this tune book! … Highly recommended!
Bluegrass Unlimited (March ’97)
Ken Perlman is a meticulous musician and in this case proves himself equally meticulous in his documentation of the fiddle tradition he found thriving on Prince Edward Island… This book is important for what it preserves. For as anyone who has heard these tunes and these fiddlers will attest, there is a wealth on P.E.I. greater than gold… This set of tunes is very nicely presented. It includes a good deal of information about the fiddlers and their world. Highly recommended to all fiddlers and fiddle students and to anyone who wants to do folk music field work. It is a fine example of what can be done to preserve and protect an endangered species — homemade music….
Reviews for Northern Banjo CD
The Old Time Herald, Winter 2002/’03 by A.V. Shirk
As a young man learning to play the banjo, Ken Perlman had the instrument’s limitations gratuitously pointed out to him at jam sessions by other musicians who would explain to him that some tunes couldn’t be played on the banjo in clawhammer style and that, when the group was playing them, he should just sit those out. As he recalled years later in a May 1997 interview in Banjo Newsletter:” At first, I would just accept that. Later, though, I would go home and think, ‘Let’s see if I can.’ Quite often, I would be able to find a way that would work. Eventually, it became for me something that had a beauty and an aesthetic all its own-the idea that playing tunes in clawhammer style was a lovely and legitimate thing to do on the banjo.”
Lovely, legitimate, and virtually a career for Perlman who went on to become a banjo per- former, guitarist, teacher, writer, and recording artist and who is the leading proponent of what he now calls the “melodic clawhammer” style of banjo playing. He has also done extensive folk- lore studies, particularly of fiddle music of Prince Edward Island, Canada. Northern Banjo is the latest in a series of recordings in which he demonstrates how successful he has been in adapting clawhammer style banjo playing to those fiddle tunes.
Most of the music in the album consists of a series of medleys, usually of three tunes. Each medley has its own arrangement-no two are the same. Unlike Perlman’s earlier albums, such as Island Boy and Devil In the Kitchen, in which Perlman’s banjo has only guitar or piano accompaniment, Northern Banjo is a richly woven tapestry drawing on a wide variety of instruments.All of Perlman’s musical arrangements start with the banjo, guitar, and bass. Upon this foundation, Perlman builds by adding, in some cases, just a fiddle, but more often a selection of instruments as colorful as the five-string fiddle, the Irish bodhran drum, the Uilleann pipes, the Irish bazouki, and the Brazilian rattle, the caxixi. Perlman’s arrangements carefully weave the various musical lines, emphasizing the musical values, not the exoticness of the instruments.
The richly textured instrumentation for the “Lord MacDonald’s Reel,” “The Princess Reel,” and “The Honeymoon” medley, for example, calls for three guitars, including a resophonic guitar, a mandolin, a bass, three wind instruments, and a drum! However, when you listen to this cut, it is not the unusual combination of instruments you hear, but the melodies, which draw the listener along as the instrumental lines weave in and out among each other. This is an album of ensemble playing with few instrumental breaks or solos, and no single instrument dominates. Except the banjo. This is a banjo album.
In the notes to “Road to Mexico,” which Perlman describes as being delivered in “‘full Monty’ bluegrass treatment,” he goes on to ex- plain that it is, “with clawhammer banjo in its rightful place as full-fledged lead instrument, naturally!” This remark describes the role of the banjo for the whole album. Perlman’s banjo dances above the other instruments and he has instrumental skill that matches his musician- ship. Sometimes, as in “Stella’s Trip to Kamloops” and especially in “Robert Cormack, Aberdeen,” he plays long, slow, flowing melodies rarely heard in clawhammer banjo playing. Most of the selections are moderate to fast, however. In “Fisher’s Hornpipe” and “Braes of Auchtertyre,” he showers the tunes with notes that are thrown off his banjo as brilliantly as sparks from a fire- works sparkler-only much better controlled. In “Caber Feidh,” he does the same with variations up the neck.
In a triumph of good sense over consistency, this “banjo” album has a few of Perlman’s fingerpicking guitar solos interspersed among the selections. They add a nice counterpoint.The sound is good. Recording engineer Paul Benedict has produced an album in which the instruments are clearly distinguishable and the balance is good “with clawhammer banjo in its rightful place as full-fledged lead instrument, naturally!
“Perlman’s extensive notes begin with remarks on the genesis of the album and on his style of banjo playing. They also include the key signature and banjo tuning for each medley along with a list of exactly who plays what instrument. There are also brief comments on the history or origin of each selection.
Northern Banjo is an album that shows how fortunate it was that Perlman ignored his early instruction on the limitations of the banjo. It is an album that anyone who loves old fiddle tunes, fine banjo playing, or just good music should thoroughly enjoy.
Netrhythms.com by Dave Kidman
Northern Banjo represents a new kind of ensemble sound for clawhammer-style banjo playing”, states the liner. It’s a new project whereby Ken — an acknowledged master of the banjo and fingerstyle guitar (and author of several highly-regarded books on folk instrumental skills) — has arranged fiddle tunes from specifically Northern — i.e., Atlantic Canadian (especially Prince Edward Island) — and Celtic traditions for his chosen instruments.Ken’s an acclaimed exponent of the melodic clawhammer style of banjo playing, one which hitherto had been primarily regarded as an accompanimental rather than solo/lead function. Given the album’s title, it’s expected that the banjo will take centre stage, and so it does, although 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 but Track 6, Road To Mexico (the album’s only original composition), is arguably the most convincing demonstration of just how subtly this can be managed in a bluegrass context, wherein Ken and his accompanying musicians bring out the syncopations in an unexpected and intriguing way.
On most of the album, Ken’s backed by the guitar of Ken Brown and the bass of David Woodhead, with the addition of a fiddle part on several cuts (either accompanying or in duet with the banjo part, and nicely managed with the exception of some occasional dubious tuning on one track) and even a fuller Irish-session-style ensemble on a further four. The pairing of uilleann pipes and Cape Breton-style fiddling on the closing track makes for an inspired finale to the album. Ken’s own expert and typically scintillating playing is rightly the focus, though, and is probably best described as deft, quietly breathtaking and enviably relaxed; his very special skills lie in knowing just where to place the accents in order to preserve the intrinsic rhythmic character of the tunes, and in realizing how fast not to take the music!
That the whole album proves listenable right through from beginning to end in one sitting is in itself a tribute to the care with which it has been programmed; the ensemble pieces are thrown into relief by the juxtaposition of three solo tracks on which Ken demonstrates his flair for fingerstyle guitar, the two Scottish sets being particularly noteworthy. The whole package is supplemented by detailed notes on the sources for the tunes, and it all adds up to a joyous and refreshingly different instrumental release that’s highly recommendable.
Sing Out! (Fall ’02)
The title of this CD refers to Ken’s description of his distinctive clawhammer banjo style. This virtuosi style is most commonly referred to as “melodic clawhammer” as more emphasis is placed on the presentation of the melody.Ken has made an extensive study of the music of Prince Edward Island and has transposed many intricate fiddle tunes into banjo notation. The listener will find his melodic style much more akin to that of the tenor banjo in Celtic music sans the trills. In this style the fifth string becomes primarily a noted string rather than a rhythmic drone as found in the Appalachian clawhammer style.
Ken is joined by some of Ontario’s finest acoustic musicians including David Woodhead, bass; Sandy MacIntyre, James Stephens and Oliver Schoerer, fiddle; Loretto Reed, winds; Pat O’Gorman, pipes; Brian Taheny, strings; Jason Fowler, guitar; Ben Grossman, percussion and American John Rossbach on guitar and mandolin. 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. An interesting medley includes the trio of tunes “Lord MacDonald’s Reel” (a cousin to Leather Britches), “The Princess Reel” and the “Honeymoon” and aptly demonstrates the beauty of these fully realized arrangements of winds, strings, bass and rock solid banjo.
Included on Northern Banjo are three examples of Ken’s arrangements of dance tunes for fingerstyle guitar. Again, his touch is light with great clarity as he articulates the complex character of Prince Edward Island tunes.
Ken Perlman has taken a style of music and made it his own.
Banjo Newsletter (Sept. ’02) by Michael Miles
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. There are 14 tracks on the recording, but most of them are medleys covering 40 total tunes. 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. There is a uniquely Canadian approach to accompaniment that creates a chamber-like sound with the banjo as the featured solo instrument. In this setting — with creative support from guitarist Ken Brown and featuring great instrumentalists Oliver Shoerer on fiddle, John Rossbach on mandolin, and numerous others — the banjo remains at the top of the sound. Those ingredients make this recording quite unlike most any other banjo recording, and a must have for connoisseurs of the magical 5-string.
Extensive liner notes provide technical information about the banjo, the tunings, and the key changes as well as source information for the tunes. If that were not enough, there’s a drawing of Ken Perlman riding in a canoe (in the great north woods) paddling that canoe with his banjo. This is a truly enduring image that depicts Ken’s journey across North America with banjo in hand, and imagination in heart.And the journey is most intriguing. There have been other articles about Ken that have depicted that banjo journey — but this recording is a crowning achievement in a series of many. If you’re familiar with Ken’s work, this comes as no surprise. If you’re not, here’s a brief background. In 1977, Kicking Mule Records put out an album called, Melodic Clawhammer Banjo that featured Ken, along with Bob Carlin, Henry Sapoznik, Andy Cahan and Dana Loomis. The recording proved that using the clawhammer banjo style could be effectively more melodic than the traditional role of banjo as accompaniment to the fiddle. It was a splendid recording that opened the door for many players, myself included. Numerous instructional books and CD’s later, on this new Northern Banjo recording, Ken has taken that melodic clawhammer challenge to a higher level of refinement.
There are many tunes to consider. Here are two that jumped out at me. Track 14 is a medley Georgina Campbell/Little Jack’s Reel/Levantine’s Barrel. Among the notable achievements are the key changes from G to Em to D, all out of a Double C tuning capoed at 2nd fret. And it should not be overlooked that Ken is a superb fingerstyle guitarist as well, with several important instruction books. Track 7, Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife is a splendid guitar arrangement of this 18th century Scottish fiddler’s composition for his wife of 30 years.
As listeners, we jump into the musical story somewhere in the middle. As such, a reasonable question for any artist is, “Where do such thoughts come from? What are your influences?” Ken cited several. At the top of the list are fiddlers from whom over the years Ken has extracted his own banjo style. Of influential banjo players, Ken cites Howie Bursen and Reed Martin. Upon hearing Reed play his strikingly powerful melodies, Ken recalled thinking, “Oh my God, that is possible.” Most people hear Ken play and are prone to think, “Oh my God, that’s impossible.”But there is the musical axiom, “If you can hear it, you can play it.” So Ken’s playing begins with a lifetime of listening and cataloging sounds and melodies. He cites the importance of controlling the right hand as of utmost importance to deliver the proper attack and to articulate the phrasing. Yet hearing the syncopation, hearing the phrasing of the fiddle tunes first — and then uncovering a way to make it happen on the banjo is the centerpiece of his work. To many it might seem like paddling a canoe upstream in the great northwoods. To Ken it is simply an achievable challenge, and his life’s work.
This new recording, Northern Banjo, with its elegant and distinctly northern accompaniment provides a wonderful underpinning and musical interplay to one of North America’s most extraordinary banjoists. And like the 1977 Kicking Mule recording, this proves that clawhammer banjo has more possibilities to discover.
Acoustica Magazine (Sept. ’02)
All clawhammer instrumental by one of the worlds most respected authorities of the clawhammer discipline, Ken Perlman. Impeccable clarity. Every note is brilliant. This project is unique in that it draws its influence from the north- eastern regions of the U.S. and Canada, in contrast to the Ap- palachian clawhammer style so many people are familiar with. The difference? Northern clawhammer is a melodic, faithful replication of timeless Celtic and Northern Fiddle tunes. If you are based in the southern camp, these tunes, executed in meticulous manner, will captivate and demand your utmost respect for the skill level required. Most Excellent.
Bluegrass Unlimited (Sept. ’02)
Ken Perlman has to be the most famous practitioner of melodic banjo. He gets so many notes, it sounds like he is playing in a three-finger melodic style or a tenor banjo on a jig. The typical bounce of clawhammer banjo is not always present. His long cascading runs sound like some of the more melodic bluegrass players. His banjo sounds for all the world like a tenor banjo on “Shandon Bells.”
The tunes for the most part are Celtic or Canadian. He does create some real excitement with his long runs and solid drive. The interspersed guitar pieces set off the faster banjo pieces as they are quieter and much more introspective. There are several fine musicians accompanying him including Ken Brown on guitar and fiddlers James Stephens, Oliver Schoerer, and Sandy Maclntyre. Additionally, there are uillean pipes, flutes, and whistles and John Rossbach on guitar.
If you are a fancier of the northern tunes, and like very precise banjo playing with a strong melodic bent, this recording will be right up your alley. Its kinship to bluegrass is evident, but as the title indicates, this is music from the northern regions and Mr. Perlman has done an exquisite job of taking the banjo where no one has gone before.
Old Time News (Summer ’02) (UK) Published by Friends of Old Time American Music and Dance)
This is Old Time music, but not the Southern Appalachian style we tend to refer to in these pages. It is a very pleasant selection of some of the styles of music that clawhammer banjo can express beautifully, with the addition of three solo tracks of Ken’s beautiful finger-style guitar playing. I would cheerfully buy a CD of this alone.
The tracks are mostly fiddle tunes with a Celtic flavour from the Northern states and from Eastern Canadian provinces, with special emphasis on Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton, with their old, faithfully preserved and expanded Scottish traditional repertoire. They are performed in Ken’s clean, precise melodic style, with few or no missing notes, quite unlike the rough approximations most of us tend to thrash out in sessions, although he does play one self-penned bluegrass tune, which demonstrates the versatility of clawhammer.
Ken is ably assisted by a varying line-up of other musicians who mostly come from the Ontario area, including guitar, fiddle, mandolin, bass, uillean pipes, flute, whistle, bodhran. The players fill the tracks with tasteful and atmospheric accompaniment.As a long established teacher of clawhammer banjo, he is aware of our needs for playing details, and he includes the banjo tunings and the keys. The sleeve notes tell us that standard notation for most of the tunes can be found in Ken’s book The Fiddle Tunes of Prince Edward Island (Mel Bay).
There are some technical marvels to be studied by banjo players, such as playing in Bb while tuned in G modal, and playing in F and G while in double C tuning. I am always astonished by the fluid way he plays jigs, having totally failed to manage it myself over many years of trying, and I shall do some serious listening to this subtle and complex CD, which will be a real pleasure, as it’s growing on me every time I hear it.
Canadian Folk Music Bulletin (Summer ’02) by Barry Luft Calgary, Alberta
Here is a recording that has full marks for presentation of instrumental ensemble music. The main lead instrument is the 5-string banjo played in the melodic clawhammer style.
With 14 items, including many medleys, this 53- minute CD of essentially an acoustic focus on fiddle music is a masterpiece. The title, Northern Banjo, refers to the old-time fiddle tune traditions found and customarily played in the northeastern part of the us and the eastern part of Canada, with a significant emphasis on tunes from Atlantic Canada. Ken Perlman, an American musician, does the lion’s share of the lead melody playing in his clawhammer banjo style, on almost all of the tunes. This gives the CD a unique flavour. The other instruments (mainly played by Canadian musicians) stay for the most part in the roles of complementing and backup. These other instruments include Uillean pipes, tin whistle, flute, mandolin, Irish bazouki, bass, bodhran, guitar, viola, caxixi and resophonic guitar.
To break up the banjo and ensemble action, Ken delivers three solos of fingerstyle guitar and also includes an original banjo piece called Road to Mexico. Some cuts include many instruments all at once, but there is never a cluttered, overbearing or overproduced result on any tune.
Ken’s banjo is stretched to get all the notes of a particular tune with clarity and good phrasing, but never at the expense of a solid rhythm so necessary for this kind ( or most kinds) of music.On this CD you’ll find assorted reels, jigs and hornpipes, and music that is fast, slow or of medium tempo — a healthy variety. Perlman’s banjo playing style, combined with his own instrument sound setup, is sometimes reminiscent of a four-string plectrum banjo flavour blended with the five-string drone and melody quality.
Ken’s intricacies cover his banjo neck from stem to stem — from first position up to very high registers on the fingerboard — and he is a master at arranging both the tunes and the medleys to create changing moods.
Realizing that Perlman couldn’t do it all on one recording, this reviewer would have appreciated one or two solo tunes with just banjo. Perhaps on the next CD.It is very appropriate to have Ken Perlman’s music reviewed in a Canadian publication on a number of counts, including the Canadian content of his music. 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. In conclusion, this work has delightful power and a unique collection of fiddle music — unique in that the 5-string banjo played the clawhammer way takes the lead!
All Music Guide (artistdirect.com) by Rick Anderson
Ken Perlman’s first album for the respected bluegrass and old-time music label Copper Creek finds him expanding both his own stylistic horizons and those of his new label. The repertoire here is not new to him — Perlman has long championed the fiddle tunes of the northeastern U.S. and Canada’s Maritime provinces — but the addition of electric bass, bouzouki, uillean pipes and exotic percussion to the musical mix is new for Perlman, who has generally stuck to more austere and tradition-minded arrangements in his recorded work. The result is absolutely beautiful.
Whereas most five-string banjo players use the instrument’s shorter fifth string as a drone, Perlman tends to use it as just one more melody string, with the result that his playing can sometimes be lacking in rhythmic pring. But that approach does lend itself more to the jigs and hornpipes he loves to play, and even on the reels (and one bluegrass-y breakdown) his sweetly flowing lines and carefully crafted arrangements are a joy to hear. And when he lays down the banjo and picks up a guitar for few fingerstyle settings of Irish and Scottish tunes, the sound is no less lovely.
Highlights on this program include the heart-tugging guitar arrangement of Niel Gow’s Lament for His Second Wife, the intricately beautiful Braes of Auchtertyre/Caber Feidh set, and Perlman’s own Road to Mexico. Highly recommended.
John Salmon, DJ of “Sugar in the Gourd,” Old-Time Music Internet Radio Show
Thanks to Gary at Copper Creek for sending me a promocopy of your wonderful CD… I really like Northern Banjo — one of my favorite releases of the year.
Pow’r Pickin’ (June ’02)
The cover of Ken Perlman’s new release features a cartoon drawing of Ken in a canoe, using his banjo as a paddle to propel him down a pastoral Canadian river. His recording takes us on a melodic clawhammer expedition throughout the Northern half of North America. Ken reminds us that there are actually people living up there (with their own country and everything) that have a distinctive and important musical heritage as rich as anything in the Southern Mountain music tradition.Few banjoists have the virtuosity to conquer much of this sophisticated material with the ease and joy that he conveys.
Each tune has a different set of accompanists, on a wide range of instruments, including the predictable violin and guitar, but also including viola, uillean pipes, Irish bazouki, and caxixi (caxixi?). Not surprisingly, the Scots-Irish influence is clear, and there are times that Ken magically coaxes a stocatto tenor banjo sound out of his open-back Ome. His picking is just that clean. Elsewhere, as on “Road to Mexico,” you’ll swear he is playing Scruggs-style bluegrass banjo. But the liner notes insist he is accomplishing all this in his incomparable, melodic clawhammer style. Ever the teacher, Ken provides banjo tunings for each selection, as if to suggest, “you could do this, too!” I found that indeed, I, too, was able to play many of these tunes (but only in my fondest dreams).
There is plenty of variety to entertain both the heart and the mind throughout the recording. Ken is also a master fingerstyle guitarist (he wrote the seminal Fingerstyle Guitar book over twenty years ago), and he treats us to three beautifully arranged acoustic guitar solo pieces.Northern Banjo is masterfully recorded, no doubt using the best of microphones to capture every nuance. On one guitar solo, “Neil Gow’s Lament for His Second Wife” (presumably not to be confused with “Neil Gow’s Lament for His First Wife”) you can hear the air moving through Ken’s ample nose as he breathes. Next time he must cut out those nostril hairs, use a cheaper mic, or else hold his breath as he plays the song!
Not surprisingly, banjomiester Ken has delivered an engaging album oozing with variety, intelligence, and fun.
San Diego North County Bluegrass & Folk Club Newsletter (June-July ’02)
Copper Creek Records from Roanoke, Virginia is slowly establishing itself as the bluegrass label of the future. They are gradually building up an impressive roster of artists that are sure to be the bluegrass stars of the future. This is the way Sugar Hill, Philo, and Flying Fish Records started out twenty-plus years ago. Copper Creek has three new releases that are worth noting.
Ken Perlman’s Northern Banjo is a very lovely album that demonstrates Mr. Penman’s fluidness on both clawhammer banjo (primarily) and fingerstyle guitar. Many of the tunes date back to the 18th and 19th Century although some of Mr. Penman’s compositions are included as well. The charm of the album is the way his tunes fit hand-in-glove with the “golden oldies.” Hence, the resulting flavor of the album is more old-timey than bluegrass, although both flavors are present.
Reviews for Island Boy (Wizmak Recordings)
Sing Out! (Feb.-Apr. ’97)
Perlman set about the task of adapting his traditional clawhammer style to capture what he terms the “distinctive kick and drive” of [Prince Edward} Island music… Island Boy is the recorded result of this experiment, a collection of reels, strathspeys, hornpipes, jigs and more done in a distinctive melodic banjo style that brings to mind favorable comparisons to the playing of Tony Ellis and the late Carroll Best. With piano backup from Islander Kevin Chaisson and guitar backup by John Rossbach, this is banjo music with a unique twist that makes for good listening…This is an album with an appeal that should reach across many of the boundaries of the folk music world.
The Old Time News (Friends of American Music & Dance, U.K.: Winter ’96/97)
The CD is full of the most intricate and deftly played arrangements…Those of you who [are] familiar with Ken’s work from his excellent tutor books … will know that Ken takes the banjo far beyond the role of the thinking man’s rhythm instrument…and explores the furthest reaches of melodic clawhammer playing… This album is an absolute must as it will provide you with a superb selection of new material…Ken’s enthusiastic and scholarly approach to the project makes the overall effect most rewarding.
Flagstaff Live! (Arizona: by Michael Morales, Feb 24-Mar 1, 2000)
Deep within the depths of the sea lies a single oyster, capable of forming a gem precious to the hearts of so many people. There exists a similar creator of gems in Ken Perlman, whose illustrious career has focused on playing, teaching and reviving traditional forms of folk music.
In his most recent recording, Island Boy, Perlman offers a compelling string of Irish and Celtic interpretations. His mastery of clawhammer banjo and fingerstyle guitar shines through each cut with remarkable precision and clarity. An accomplished folklorist, musician and teacher, Perlman combines his talents to provide a complete package of expertise…He is at his best when demonstrating his command of the fret board. Using the banjo as his voice, he conveys the feel of deeply rooted musical styles with effortless fluidity….
The addition of local pianist Kevin Chaisson and John Rossbach on acoustic guitar provides an authentic backdrop to Perlman’s streaming banjo. The trio delivers a lively collection of traditional fiddle tunes played without a single fiddle. Although there are no fretted instruments traditionally used in this style, Perlman adapts his clawhammer technique to incorporate the banjo as seamless accompaniment to the island sound… Perlman’s innovative approach and diligent study of this musical genre has become vital to the preservation of Prince Edward Islands musical heritage.
Crossroads (by Sharon Goldwassar Aug / Sept ’97)
Not far from the dance floor: Ken Perlman’s exploration of the musical legacy of Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) comes to life through his distinctive melodic banjo playing and fingerstyle guitar. Perlman’s clean, solo playing lets the tunes speak for themselves in a voice that mingles the Scottish. Irish and Acadian-French heritage of the island. Ken’s respectful adaptations of P.E.I. fiddling conjure up warm images of the old-time dances and gatherings that still thrive on the island. Kevin Chaisson on piano and John Rossbach on guilar offer just the right touch of accompaniment. You want to settle in and listen to this unique and comfortable album many times.
Express & Star (Wolverhampton UK: by Garry Copeland, May 30, 1997)
I first heard Ken Perlman more than 20 years ago on a banjo sampler released on Stephan Grossman’s Kicking Mule label. Since then, he has established himself as the main man in the field of clawhammer banjo — successfully combining a career that includes writing excellent instruction manuals, recording and musical scholarship. This album is the result of field trips researching fiddle tunes from Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton. The material is a fascinating cocktail of Scottish, Irish and Acadian airs which Perlman plays on banjo and fingerstyle guitar accompanied by pianist Kevin Chaisson and guitarist John Rossbach. The result could have been a bit dry and dusty, but this is far from the case. All three musicians were obviously having a ball. This is an album clawhammerers won’t want to be without.
Canadian Folk Music Bulletin (Mar/Apr. 1997)
What happens when you take a guy who happens to be a co-inventor and prominent player of the “melodic clawhammer” banjo style and set him to studying fiddle music in Prince Edward Island? You guessed it — soon Ken Perlman was developing ways to play PEI tunes on the banjo, and now he’s put out the results on CD for us all to hear.
Trying to play fiddle tunes on the banjo presents a couple of immediate problems. First, the instrument doesn’t have the sustain of the fiddle. Banjo notes are short and choppy, so long- bow notes and other fiddle effects have to be fudged or left out completely. It’s hard to be mellow on the banjo! Secondly, the characteristic metric patterns of the clawhammer banjo style don’t always lend themselves to “non-square” rhythms. Witness most banjo players’ struggles to play in 6/8 time, for example. A clawhammer player who’s locked into the style may find it impossible to play anything other than reel-type melodies; if he wants to play other types of tunes, he’ll have to be creative, and find ways to break free of the right-hand strait jacket.
So the jigs are the first touchstone as to whether this recording succeeds. I’m happy to report that Ken comes through admirably on the two tracks of jig medleys included. The notes are crisp, emphasized properly in the triplets, and Ken even gets in some of the “cranning” twists that a fiddler might use to attack the notes. Pickers wanting to venture into the wilds of 6/8 time should pay close heed to tracks 4 and 11 on the CD .For the recording as a whole, Ken seems to have made a sincere attempt to capture the individual feel of the original PEI fiddlers’ versions of the tunes; at least, the “feel” varies from brushy and rhythmic to precise and staccato on various tunes. Even without hearing the fiddlers, though, this set of tunes is fine listening, and stands up well on its own merits.
Ken went to PEI for piano accompanist Kevin Chiasson, which I’m sure helps flavour the tunes as they’d be played on the Island. John Rossbach’s guitar fills out the sound, sometimes helps drive the up-tempo numbers, and-the mark of a good rhythm guitarist-doesn’t get in the way.These days “Celtic” music is being played on many instruments from outside the tradition, and clawhammer-style banjo fits nicely into this spectrum-quite differently than the tenor banjo, which has already become a staple… Ken Perlman’s explorations will be of interest to Celtic music fanciers as well as banjo players. And pickers can revel in superb playing — this recording is a must-own for anyone who plays the style.
Gajoob Website (Reviewed by Kevin Slick 3/21/2000)
Expert clawhammer banjo is featured on this album of traditional tunes from Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton. Fans of celtic music will enjoy this recording as will any old timey folk followers. Most of the cuts feature the standard old timey/Celtic fiddle tune instruments, all well played and recorded with a nice warm feel.
Perlman also switches to fingerstyle guitar on some cuts which brings to mind the work of Pierre Bensusan. This is a wonderful album that travels through the wide range of traditional music.The recording quality is excellent. The sound is clear without being sterile, the melodies shine through sounding completely natural. The players are all quite good, and they never sacrifice the essential elements of tune and feeling to show off. All of this goes together to make a great album of traditional tunes with an up to date feel, bringing the best of new ideas along with respect for the traditions.
John O’Regan (Irish Broadcaster)
Ken Perlman’s Island Boy sounds like an intriguing idea on paper — take a selection of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton fiddle tunes, and play them on a 5-string banjo with guitar and piano accompaniment. Not only is it interesting on paper, it is interesting to hear as the combination works quite well together… “Lord MacDonald’s Reel” and “Belfast Jig” both rely on energetic interplay with banjo, guitar and the unique Cape Breton piano style working together. The fingerstyle guitar solo “Glenfiddich Strathspey” adds an almost baroque change of tempo. Island Boy is an excitingly varied and energetic album…with a delightfully different approach.
Banjo Newsletter (By Dan Levenson April ’97)
When the general population thinks banjo, most of them think in terms of Bluegrass, Dixieland, old time, or Irish tenor-style music. Few people associate the banjo with other types of music. It’s only recently that folks like Bela Fleck have openly challenged those cliched visions of the banjo’s place. For many years now, one of the people to take exception to this restricted view of the banjo’s position has been Ken. He was the first person whose music made me realize how versatile the banjo could be.
In my opinion, Ken is the undisputed king of the melodic banjo style, and with “Island Boy” he once again shows us all why… I know there are other great melodic players but none of them have mastered that style and applied it as Ken has. This album takes Ken’s work many steps beyond what he’s done in the past. On ” Island Boy,” Ken applies his style to the uniquely regional style of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton. This is where Ken really stretches the limits.
Having spent several years studying the style and playing with the top “old timers” of the P.E.I. area, Ken has incorporated the feel and texture of this music to the point that he makes it his own… It’s one thing to “play the tunes,” and quite another to play the music; and yet another thing to understand the music you’re playing. Ken does all of these and it shows on the album…This album is a brilliant illustration of the versatility of the banjo and Ken Perlman. It has crept into my list of CDs that just stay in the machine and get played over and over. I would put it on the MUST HAVE list for those of you who want to hear what a banjo can do in the right hands — and Ken’s are the right ones for this music.
Northern Journey Online (Dec. 2000)
American multi-instrumentalist and folklorist Ken Perlman has compiled a wonderful selection of fiddle tunes from Prince Edward Island. Drawn from Perlman’s field recordings of PEl music, the compilation was published both as a CD and as a book with the tunes transcribed. A Mel Bay publication, the book and CD are titled The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island: Celtic and Acadian Tunes in Living Tradition (1996)…
By itself, the compilation is a great gift to Canadian music, but Perlman has taken it a step further. A gifted instrumentalist and teacher, Perlman has taken many of the tunes from the book, plus a few from Cape Breton, and transcribed them to banjo, and occasionally to guitar, on Island Boy (1996). Hearing these familiar tunes played on banjo gives them new life and freshness. Kudos to Perlman for this original, delightful album. As with Lee Murdock, we declare Perlman an Honourary Canadian for his outstanding contribution to Canadian folk music.
Memphis Dateline (by Fetzer Mills, Sept 15-30, 1998)
The playing on it is exquisite and the tunes are heartbreakingly beautiful.
Old-Time Herald (by Jon and Marcia Pankake, Summer 1998)
Ken Perlman occupies a position in old-time music analogous to that of Stefan Grossman in tile blues. That is, each man is a consummate instrumental performer who is even better-known as a teacher and author of book, sound, and video instruction based on traditional playing styles. Island Boy presents Perlman as performer, playing fiddle tunes he collected on Prince Edward Island, and this disc serves as an illustration of his fine article in the O.T.H. (vol. 6, no.2). Here he has arranged the jigs, reels, and strathspeys for clawhammer banjo unobtrusively backed by guitar and piano, and, in some examples, for solo fingerstyle guitar.
The tune repertoire of PEI has developed independently of fretted instruments, and Perlman has done a solid job of translating its bowed nuances to the banjo. At best, 6/8 rhythm is quite difficult in clawhammer and triplets and grace notes require great skill to execute. Perlman has developed a tremolo with his picking index finger for the triplets which not only works but also links his playing with contemporary Celtic banjo. The slower strathspeys and airs are rendered here in lush solo guitar arrangements which have much of the same dreamy appeal of the O’Carolan airs currently popular among soloists of the DADGAD persuasion…
All-Music Guide (by Rick Anderson Aug. 1999)
With Devil in the Kitchen, Ken Perlman proved hat you can play Celtic music very effectively on the clawhammer banjo. With Island Boy, he shows that the same is true of the music of Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. The results are every bit as lovely this time out, and may be a bit more accessible to the average listener, since the texture of the music is enriched by the addition of accompanying guitar and piano.Most of the tunes themselves come from Irish, Scottish and French-Canadian sources; what makes them regionally distinctive is the playing style, which tends to be a bit less frenetic and more deliberate than is the norm for traditional Celtic music, though with the piano pounding out the backbeats it’s all you can do to keep from dancing around the room while you listen. There are particularly nice arrangements of “Inverness Jig” and the “Upper Denton Hornpipe” here, and Perlman trades in banjo for guitar on the stately “Glenfiddich Strathspey”/”Homeward Bound” set…All of this is thoroughly delightful listening.
Reviews for Devil in the Kitchen (Marimac Recordings)
Bluegrass Unlimited (Sept. ’94)
Ken Perlman should be no stranger to lovers of the melodic clawhammer banjo. He has taken this art form to places that it hasn’t and may well never have been, since its heyday in antebellum America. Mr. Perlman has written a book on clawhammer style and recorded several albums prior to this release. This labor of love [“Devil in the Kitchen” on Marimac Recordings] is a culmination of an extensive collecting trip he made to Prince Edward Island. It has been the thrust of his work to play Celtic music on the five-string banjo. From listening to this it appears he has come a long way to perfecting this blending of two disparate tangibles…This recording draws the listener into it. It is not a loud or uproarious thing. Loaded with good Celtic tunes from Prince Edward Island…In places, Perlman eschews the banjo for guitar, and we are treated to first class fingerpicking of a highly complex and expressive nature. His stately technique on a steel string guitar possesses a strong drive and full delivery.This recording is recommended to all lovers of clawhammer banjo, Celtic tunes and fingerpicked guitar. There are hours of listening pleasure contained here along with a wealth of good tunes.
Banjo Newsletter (May 1994)
A brilliant player and re-inventor of modern melodic down-stroke (clawhammer) banjo playing is Ken Perlman. Ken also plays outstanding finger-style guitar… As far as I know, I have every tape, book and BNL column he has ever done…
Drawn largely from his recent work with Cape Breton fiddlers, this new album “Devil in the Kitchen” on Marimac Recordings features Celtic tunes from that area. This album only has three guitar tunes on it… For banjo players, that is good news as it means more of Ken’s immaculate banjo work. This new album is awesome, and even better it has an accompanying tab booklet that steps you through some truly beautiful arrangements. This is an impressive album, and I encourage every serious banjo player to add it to their library… A technical masterpiece, with copious liner notes!
Fiddler Magazine (Fall 1994)
…Over 30 tunes are represented in this collection [“Devil in the Kitchen” on Marimac Recordings] by one of America’s great melodic clawhammer players. Perlman, well-known for his books Melodic Clawhammer Banjo and Clawhammer Style Banjo has also written several guitar books…
The CD opens with Perlman on fingerstyle guitar…playing “Professor Blackie.” The arrangement is beautifully performed…It is a soothing opener for the collection. After the opening guitar solo, Perlman jumps into “The Bay of Fundy”… This is Perlman at his best — a pure melodic clawhammer style fully imitative of the plectrum style banjo, with none of the drone sound or rhythmic structure associated with the southern clawhammer style. The piece moves quickly as Perlman plays some of his variations on the basic theme.
“Cape Breton Johnny Cope”/”Miss Lyle”/ “The Black Mill” demonstrates Perlman’s mastery of the style played on this album as he combines pull-off triplets with some of the picking tremolo. As Perlman notes, he is using his index nail with a down-up- down motion to imitate the … sound of this type of music on tenor or plectrum banjo. More is heard on the following track, with a sound reminiscent of Seamus Eagan…
This CD represents a large collection of Celtic tunes from the Northeast U.S. and Canada, well-performed by one of the premier melodic clawhammer players alive. Highly recommended for anyone interested in this type of music, including fiddle players looking for tunes and/or phrasing and melodic ideas. The liner notes are well written, with sources and history of the pieces included.
Review for Clawhammer Style Banjo Instruction Video
Bluegrass Unlimited (Oct. ’95)
Ken Perlman was one of several “melodic clawhammer banjo” players represented on a Kicking Mule record with that moniker about 20 years ago. This recording along with all of his subsequent recordings have done much to solidify his role as one of the most creative practitioners of this art. He has stretched the boundaries of what can be done on the clawhammer banjo…
The first video takes us from the most basic fingerings and strums through to a good solid intermediate playing level… He uses an easily understood and workable system to identify the roles of both hands and give the students a handle on what and how the hands are used…By the time we get to tape, two a certain level of mastery has been achieved. The second tape continues to build upon this groundwork…
Perlman’s analysis and highly detailed presentation should help unravel the mysteries. Upon completion of these tapes the student will [have] the flexibility to improvise and a repertory of outstanding diversity.Perlman has taken the jig and given it a home on the five string banjo. Given the basic rhythm of clawhammer banjo… this was no small feat. He plays a bit of a rag during an intro sequence and again it was amazingly good. Again, ragtime rhythm and the basic timing of the clawhammer stroke do not fall naturally together. His phrasing and use of left- and right-hand techniques open a new world to the clawhammer banjoist. If you want to play clawhammer banjo, get these tapes.
Reviews of Ken Perlman Books
Reviews for Clawhammer Style Banjo book (Centerstream)
Bluegrass Unlimited (Oct.’83)
This is an exceptionally well-organized book which really lives up to its subtitle, “A Complete Guide for the Beginning and Advanced Player.” The author has a gift for explaining the multi-faceted clawhammer style of banjo playing in a clear, step-by- step manner which would appeal to players of all levels. Through photos, diagrams and concisely written passages, virtually every technique from the simple brush stroke to he double grace note is covered… There is much attention to rhythmic nuance, and just about any question that might arise in the reader’s mind is anticipated and dealt with insightfully.
The book…includes sections covering banjo terminology, the fretting hand, tablature notation, the plucking hand, hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, the single- note brush,…double-thumbing, alternate-string pull-offs, triplets, syncopation and advanced right- and left-hand techniques.
Frets Magazine (June ’83)
This is an excellent resource for clawhammer banjo players of any skill level…His most recent work presents both the rudiments and advanced techniques for clawhammer banjo. The text…is interspersed with high-quality photos that beautifully demonstrate hand positions… Part one deals with the more basic material … [and] about 30 tunes are provided to reinforce these techniques… Part two is for more advanced players and covers such techniques as double thumbing, quick slides, fretted pull-offs, ornaments and harmonics. In this section 50 tunes are provided…
Reviews for Clawhammer Banjo & Fingerstyle Guitar Solos (Folkways)
Sing Out! (Jan.-Mar. ’84)
When Ken Perlman plays, his instruments take on other aspects. On “O’Carolan’s Welcome,” for example, Perlman’s guitar takes on the intonation of a harp. He doesn’t burst out of the traditions of old-time clawhammer banjo and blues guitar, but he has added new dimensions to both styles. On both instruments he takes Celtic dance tunes and weaves their melodies with almost classical attention. His arrangements are precise and deliberate, but never predictable. In fact, Perlman’s subtle nuances are played with such clarity that each listen brings revelations. This album’s…design is to celebrate the melodies and intricacies of these songs. And to that end, Perlman has succeeded splendidly.
Frets Magazine (Jan. ’84)
For frailing fans clawhammer master Ken Perlman has released Clawhammer Banjo & Fingerstyle Guitar Solos…Admirers of left hand legerdemain will want to study some of the maneuvers Perlman manages with his fretting fingers.>
Bluegrass Unlimited (March ’84)
One problem in “melodic” playing in both the bluegrass and clawhammer styles is that … the tunes can lose some of their rhythmic punch. There’s not much problem with that here… On the side of the album devoted to banjo, “Beaumont Rag” and “St. Anne’s Reel” come off particularly well. The second side, [which] consists of mostly Irish tunes played fingerstyle on guitar [is] very pretty.”
Reviews for Melodic Clawhammer Banjo book (Oak)
Frets Magazine (Feb. 1980)
Melodic Clawhammer Banjo by Ken Perlman is succinct, comprehensive and logically ordered — a perfect starting place for the frailer interested in melodic playing…this book should provide hours of challenging and interesting playing for intermediate and advanced players.
Pickin’ Magazine (Oct. ’79)
Perlman’s treatment of rhythm is good, especially in the area of jigs and hornpipes. For me this breaks the banjo out of the old “bumptiddy” mode.The manual contains a large section on Irish and New England traditional tunes and is what I feel the best treatment to date on banjo arrangements of these idioms.
Reviews for New England and Irish Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo (now Basic Clawhammer Banjo, Mel Bay Publishing
Fretwire Magazine (U.K., Jan. 1981)
Contains lucid and comprehensive instruction…I would recommend this book to anybody who can play basic banjo and wants to make his playing more intricate.
Bluegrass Unlimited (March ’81)
Pickers like John Burke and Art Rosenbaum set the stage for the melodic clawhammer style in the 1960s, leaving room for folks like Ken Perlman to refine and perfect playing complex melodies on the old time banjo.Ken Perlman is the author of what is quickly becoming known as the definitive volume in the style, Melodic Clawhammer Banjo… For the clawhammer player who thought it couldn’t be done, Perlman provides better than a half-dozen tabs in jig- time (6/8) and waltz time (3/4)… The book is well worth the price for clawhammer players into some fancy tunes.
Banjoist’s Broadsheet (U.K., April 1981)
Mr. Perlman’s main contribution [is] that he has refused to alter the tunes and manages to frail melodically elaborate tunes by the use of well-thought out left hand techniques… The tunes are well selected and all are delightful.
Reviews for Fingerpicking Fiddle Tunes (Mel Bay edition known as Traditional Dance Tunes for Acoustic Guitar
Acoustic Guitar (by Russell Letson, May 1997)
Ken Perlman’s books have long been among the best places to learn the Anglo-Celtic-Appalachian end of fingerpicking, so this reissue o fhis 1978 Fingerpicking Fiddle Tunes is very welcome. The 31 selections, invery readable tab and standard notation, come from both sides of the Atlantic and range from beginner pieces such as “Old Joe Clark” to metrically tricky numbers such as the Northumbrian “Nancy.” A CD of new recordings replaces the old seven-inch floppyrecord…. A very useful book for beginning and Intermediate players.
The Fiddle Web website (Feb, 1997)
I had a copy of the original edition and learned a few of the tunes. As a budding guitar player it opened up the world of fiddle tunes to me. For that I am forever grateful and I trust this edition will do the same for another generation of players.
Bluegrass Unlimited (1980)
Perlman began to develop a style of finger-picking that was suited to playing fiddle tunes…the result is a delicate and beautiful style for solo guitar.
Pickin’ Magazine (Feb. 1979)
This book quite nicely puts the phenomenon of playing traditional dance music on a fingerpicked guitar within the reach of the common fingerpicker. Using a highly readable system of tablature, Perlman progresses through a logical grouping of dance types that gives the reader a good working knowledge of why a hornpipe isn’t the same as a reel… and what that means to a guitar player… This is an interesting and challenging book that won’t be easily outgrown.
Pinewoods Folk Club Newsletter (Dec. 1978)
Occasionally someone will show exactly what the acoustic guitar is capable of… as Ken Perlman does [here]. The arrangements are clearly written and musically sound. There is no clutter here [and] each note tells. In arranging these tunes Mr. Perlman has lost none of their original flavor. Indeed some of these tunes sound so well on the guitar, they might have returned to their natural home.