Thursday, May 04, 2006

Girl Friday #13: Trad is Rad!

About a year ago, there was a fun Rolling Stone cover story about the children of rock's greats. This mini-edition of Girl Friday pays homage to a couple of the kids of trad's best.

Fans of the Ken Burns Civil War series likely remember the sad but lovely and evocative "Ashoken Farewell" that set the tone for the documentary that focused not so much on the generals and the geography as the geography of the heart. The theme was not an old fiddle tune, but rather penned by Burns' friend Jay Unger, a multi-instrumentalist, humorist, and well-loved fiddler. Jay's daughter, Ruthie not only carries forthe the fine tradition of fiddling, but gives it a new twist in her band, The Mammals, which she co-founded with Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, grandson of folk giant Pete Seeger.

Ruthie also powered up an all-female band called The Wayfaring Strangers after the ballad of the same name. They offer up a unique jazz-infused stylizing of some of trad's best-loved tunes. At Grey Fox several years ago, no fewer than a dozen top fiddlers, from Ruthie to Dirk Powell to Tim O'Brien to Darol Anger piled onstage for an outragous round of Cluck Old Hen. It was, indeed, rad trad.

In a house where the breadwinner is a fiddler and music is the entertainment, education, and source of economy, chances are pretty good that it's gonna rub off. With Ruthie and her pals, it did, in spades.

Click here to sample several tunes.


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