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Concertina As Percolator


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I must confess that I don’t buy a lot of new concertina CDs these days, as there is a certain sameness to them. Every now and then, one stands out as unique, however. Certainly Roger Digby’s CD last year was one, and Dapper’s Delight another; I penned brief reviews of each on this site. Last month I came across another group, much closer to home, which sports an Anglo concertina in a refreshingly different context. The group is from California, the Santa Cruz Percolators. The concertina player is Janet Dows. I’ve never met any of them, although I have exchanged emails with Janet about our Palestine concertina weekend every March.

 

They are a group of three (fiddle, concertina and guitar) who play a very California-esque mix of all sorts of dance music. Old time American music; Quebecois fiddle tunes; Tex-Mex polkas; Caribbean. Normally, I recoil from that sort of eclectic mix, preferring to get my music direct from the source. But in California, that sort of thing is perfectly normal, and they pull off that diverse mix without a hitch. Great foot tapping tunes.

 

The thing that captured me, however, was the concertina playing. Usually, a CD employing a concertina will have it be a concertina-dominant recording, with everyone else taking a back seat. Nothing wrong with that at all, and some of my favorites players are like that – think Noel Hill or John Kirkpatrick or Alistair Anderson or Jody Kruskal or….go fill in the blank. What is different here is that the concertina player – Janet Dows – is on most tracks playing a second fiddle-type role to the also excellent fiddle playing of Laurie Rivan. Doing that well requires great sensitivity and the ability to effortlessly blend in with string instruments, never trying to steal the show with the pyrotechnics for which we concertinists are often noted, not always favorably. It is a great display of how that can be done.

 

My wife and I took a trip out west a few weeks ago, and that CD – called Step Out – found its way back to the dashboard player more than once.

Here is their website http://www.santacruzpercolators.com/ ; the CD is available at cdbaby. I thought that Forum folks might find it interesting.

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I have the Percolators CD too, and I second Dan's recommendation. It demonstrates a lot of things that I haven't heard done anywhere else on concertina. Janet is an incredibly versatile concertina player (and Laurie is a great fiddler). You can hear sound samples on CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/santacruzpercolators .

 

I must confess that I don’t buy a lot of new concertina CDs these days, as there is a certain sameness to them. Every now and then, one stands out as unique, however. Certainly Roger Digby’s CD last year was one, and Dapper’s Delight another; I penned brief reviews of each on this site. Last month I came across another group, much closer to home, which sports an Anglo concertina in a refreshingly different context. The group is from California, the Santa Cruz Percolators. The concertina player is Janet Dows. I’ve never met any of them, although I have exchanged emails with Janet about our Palestine concertina weekend every March.

 

They are a group of three (fiddle, concertina and guitar) who play a very California-esque mix of all sorts of dance music. Old time American music; Quebecois fiddle tunes; Tex-Mex polkas; Caribbean. Normally, I recoil from that sort of eclectic mix, preferring to get my music direct from the source. But in California, that sort of thing is perfectly normal, and they pull off that diverse mix without a hitch. Great foot tapping tunes.

 

The thing that captured me, however, was the concertina playing. Usually, a CD employing a concertina will have it be a concertina-dominant recording, with everyone else taking a back seat. Nothing wrong with that at all, and some of my favorites players are like that – think Noel Hill or John Kirkpatrick or Alistair Anderson or Jody Kruskal or….go fill in the blank. What is different here is that the concertina player – Janet Dows – is on most tracks playing a second fiddle-type role to the also excellent fiddle playing of Laurie Rivan. Doing that well requires great sensitivity and the ability to effortlessly blend in with string instruments, never trying to steal the show with the pyrotechnics for which we concertinists are often noted, not always favorably. It is a great display of how that can be done.

 

My wife and I took a trip out west a few weeks ago, and that CD – called Step Out – found its way back to the dashboard player more than once.

Here is their website http://www.santacruzpercolators.com/ ; the CD is available at cdbaby. I thought that Forum folks might find it interesting.

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Janet Dows emailed me out of the blue a few years ago. She was visiting New York and stopped by for some tunes. What a delightful person and we had a very pleasant afternoon chatting and playing anglo together. She impressed me as a very talented and tasteful musician. I've been sampling the Percolators CD... it sounds great!

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Janet Dows emailed me out of the blue a few years ago. She was visiting New York and stopped by for some tunes. What a delightful person and we had a very pleasant afternoon chatting and playing anglo together. She impressed me as a very talented and tasteful musician. I've been sampling the Percolators CD... it sounds great!

Glad you liked the CD, Jody. Of course, I remember you speaking to just such an issue -- of sensitively blending in with stringed instruments -- in one of your workshops, or maybe at a pub. I think Janet's playing approached that ideal very nicely.

And Daniel, I figured you must have heard of Janet, being a Californian.

Dan

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  • 2 weeks later...

I went ahead and ordered this CD after seeing it mentioned here, and have been listening to it in the car for the last few days. I'm really enjoying it, so thank you for pointing it out.

Wonderful arrangements, and yes the concertina is expertly blended. First time through I thought that occasionally when the fiddle and concertina play in unison for a phrase the combined sound takes on the timbre of a whole new instrument, akin to clarinet. My ear is picking the sounds apart better now that I've heard it a couple more times, and of course most of the time there is a lot more going on than just a unison doubling of the melody.

 

I keep thinking I need to sit down and try some of these tunes myself, which can be a frustrating thought as I drive. But something to look forward to!

Edited by Tradewinds Ted
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Hi, Thank you for your (very nice!) comments. I have noticed that the fiddle-concertina combination does have a tendency to blend into one sound, it's fun to play with that. Now that I'm mostly playing the Carroll concertina, the 2 instruments are a bit more distinct. On my old Lachenal, sometimes it was really hard to tell what was what. I really enjoy searching for the blend while playing with others.

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