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What the Reviewers Say
CD 370 FRANK FERREL: CLASSIC DOWN EAST FIDDLE MUSIC
Most of the following reviews are of the two Lp records from which this CD production was derived. Newer reviews of the CD appear first.
A discussion of fiddling with anyone from the Northwest invariably includes Frank Ferrel of Seattle, Washington. Until I heard this record, Frank Ferrel was nothing more than a name with quite a reputation. How, having heard some of Frank's ability via this record, I can say that he has certainly earned every bit of the fine reputation he has! His technique is definitely to be admired, and he plays with all of the drive that one could ask for. Although there are numerous influences that have apparently influenced Frank's style of fiddling, it could best be classified as "Canadian." His choice of tunes is excellent. There is a nice balance between fast and slow tempos and between styles. Many, if not most, of the tunes are relatively unfamiliar, so there will be good opportunity to learn some new pieces from this album. A special commendation is also due Graham Townsend for his excellent piano backup. Recommended. (Devil's Box)
Frank Ferrel is an unknown name to me, but I suspect he won't remain unknown for long.
The Seattle Fiddler's personal roots seem to be in the Pacific Northwest, yet his musical influences and repertoire come primarily from eastern Canada. Like Jean Carignan, Ferrel combines features of both French and Anglo-Irish Canadian fiddling into a cohesive, highly mature style. Ferrel is considerably less intense that Carignan but, he can be every bit as exciting. Not only does Ferrel have a seemingly boundless source of energy which keeps his reels and jigs driving straight-ahead without a letup, his playing is abundantly ornamented with a variety of triplets, graces, rolls, and multi-stops. There are some minor flaws in intonation, but only the pickiest of listeners should find them bothersome.
Fans of Canadian fiddling will recognize many of the tunes as old favorites. There are also some fine lesser-known tunes. The piano accompaniment - by, of all people, Canada's most popular fiddler, Graham Townsend - is powerful and varied. (Audio Magazine)
This is an LP of listening music and gorgeous music it is. Ferrel is a fiddler with extraordinary possibilities. He could go far. It's entirely up to him. Many of the tunes are Eastern Canadian - the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec, consequently they are familiar with our New England fiddlers. Just to listen to Ferrel playing "The Bee's Wing Hornpipe" is worth the price of the record. Only the great fiddlers approach this tune without trepidation or a bad case of the jitters. Oh I could name you dozens who could play the notes but they would play them with the grace and aplomb of a chain saw waffling its way through a Polonaise by Chopin! Ferrel plays it with beautiful intonation, each note clear and distinct yet with delicacy and a feeling for the tune.
Some words should be said too of the piano seconding of Graham Townsend He proves that he is a masterful chord man as well as a superb violinist. He plays with what is called a "walking bass" so necessary for good accompanying. He is content with being background and without it so many fiddlers are merely scrapers of strings. (Northern Junket)
For those who may not be familiar with Frank Ferrel, he has been playing the fiddle for over thirty years. This is readily apparent from even a hasty listening to this album! In addition to the numerous concerts and festivals that he plays at each year, Frank is also the director of the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes which is held annually. Given these credentials, one would expect great things from this album. You will not be disappointed! Frank's technique with the fiddle is exceptional - he can certainly play with the very best of the French=Canadian greats. This fine technical ability is complemented with an obvious love of the style of music that he is playing. The result is a very high-level set of performances that are done with a great deal of personal involvement and feeling. One could not really ask for much more from an artist. (Walnut Valley Occasional)
This is a recording of Celtic-influenced music found in North America, specifically in Northeastern United States and the Eastern Provinces of Canada. In other words music in a rich blend of Scottish, French and Irish cultures. And who better to record such tunes than Frank Ferrel? Frank is a top-flight fiddler who knows and understands this kind of music and how to play it properly. This is a listening record and each band is what is called "easy listening." Highly recommended. (Disc Collector)
Frank Ferrel, I believe, currently lives in Massachusetts, where he plays fiddle, fishes, and produces shows for Monitor Radio. He was long a fixture in the Pacific Northwest, promoting fiddling events, fishing, telling shaggy dog stories, and directing the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend. This recording was made at the 1980 FOAFT, when Frank teamed up with Quebec's Gilles Losier, pianist extraordinaire (longtime cohort to Jean Carignan and fine fiddler himself). Frank is an excellent technician who always infuses his music with much emotion, humor, and drama. Gilles plays off Frank well and acts the perfect accompanist and foil. Frank has long been interested in Scottish and Cape Breton Island fiddling styles and here plays a number of selections in that mode. He is a master of the CBI bowing staples - the quivers, snaps, and syncopations - and has incorporated those techniques into his playing of Quebecois and Irish-sourced pieces. I've rarely heard Frank falter while playing these difficult pieces and he is in exceptional form on this recording. It is difficult to believe that these are live recordings. About the only things missing from this recording are the sometimes silly introductions and unique humor that are part of his live performances. (Kerry Blech, Old Time Herald)
At first, it may be hard to see what a collection of fiddle tunes based on the music found in Eastern Canada and the Northeastern United States would be doing in the local reviews section. The 21 tracks are compiled from two recordings first done in 1975 and 1980 in Seattle and Port Townsend. And before he moved to New England in the mid-eighties, fiddler Frank Ferrel was a Washington resident and director of the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend. Plus, two of the songs Frank composed are titled "Port Townsend Jig" and "Mt. Rainier Reel." Otherwise, this music is from clear across the country, when it comes to style. Featuring Frank Ferrel on fiddle, and either Giles Losier or Graham Townsend on piano, the songs seem simple, but on closer listening, all the colorings and nuances Frank puts on each tune is astonishing. It should be noted that Townsend (who also plays twin fiddle on one track) is a renowned Canadian fiddler, though his piano work here is intricate without being showy. With over 65 minutes of Canandian influenced Celtic, this is a long-lost treasure to many, though those not as excited or willing to invest the time might be overwhelmed. These recordings were previously unavailable on disc for close to three decades, but Voyager Recordings make them sound like new. (Victory Review)
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