Rye Dill Caraway
The usual crowd which had gathered for the Blue Ridge Parkway's weekly Bluegrass / Old-time concert series at the Humpback Rocks Pioneer Farm looked on expectantly as Nonesuch unpacked the fiddle, mandolin, 5-string banjo, and guitar. The look turned a little quizzical when two more guitars, two octave mandolins, a tenor banjo, a hammered dulcimer, Appalachian dulcimer, and bass guitar came out. Then the recorders, whistles, crumhorn, oud, djembe and dumbek appeared. 'Just what kind of of music do you people play?' asked the lady in the front row. 'Fourteenth through nineteenth century traditional music from England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, North Carolina and West Virginia,' was apparently not the answer she expected. She sat back down with just 'Oh,' for a response. Whatever her initial response, she was soon smiling broadly and clapping along to a French bouree underlaid with djembe rhythms. Well, sometimes there just isn't a short answer. It's hard to fit an odd duck into a pigeon hole. How do you briefly describe a band that grafts an English Morris dance tune onto a 14th century Italian tune, works a Native American Flute into a medieval mummers song, introduces a rare Irish song with fiddle, mandolin, and cowbell and then pumps it up on bass and djembe, and even throws in a popular Macedonian folk tune for good measure? Nonesuch does all of the above and more, bringing six voices and over a dozen instruments into play to create richly textured interpretations of traditional songs and tunes from Europe and North America. Five of Nonesuch's members have long played dance tunes and songs from the US, Ireland, and the UK, while the sixth spent his time behind a rock 'n' roll drum kit. When they came together it was to explore new ways of presenting the old music while respecting it's traditions and innate qualities. One of the models for Nonesuch was the English band 'The Pentangle.' Nonesuch follows The Pentangle in introducing modern influences into traditional music but exercises a greater range of musical influences and instrumentation. Nonesuch was formed about three years ago by Mel Lee, longtime producer-host of Mel Lee's Songbag on public radio WEMU, broadcast Saturdays 9:00-noon. All of the band's members have played together in various combinations for many years, often in short-lived pick-up bands, before coming together as a regularly performing ensemble. Nonesuch's members are: Jane Cox (lead vocals, guitar, percussion); David Landes (lead vocals, hammered dulcimer, banjo, bass guitar); Karen Lee (mandolin, octave mandolin, tenor banjo, percussion); Mel Lee (lead vocals, cittern, guitar, whistles, recorder, oud) Matt Morris (vocals, djembe, dumbek, drum kit) and David Stahl (vocals, fiddle, viola). All are residents of Virginia's central Shenandoah Valley and are proud to be stretching the Valley's rich musical heritage just a little further. Nonesuch has performed at Harrisonburg's 'First Night' and 'Fridays on the Square,' and are regular performers at the Blue Ridge Parkway's summer concert series at the Humpback Rocks Pioneer Farm. 'Rye Dill Caraway' is the first CD from Nonesuch and illustrates the breadth of their musical exploration. Beginning with an 18th Century song that was more recently collected on Prince Edward Island, and moving through three Scottish ballads, a French bouree, an Irish waltz, a Canadian version of John Barleycorn, an O'Carolan tune, a fiddle tune from West Virginia, and much more, 'Rye Dill Caraway' presents the band mixing instruments and styles to create new sounds from old music, and having a lot of fun along the way.