Reviews and Comments

2 November 2014.  Amazon.com listener contributed review of Apples in Winter

Thought Provoking Music

Apples in Winter celebrates traditions of Christmas and the Winter season. I really like "The Christ Child's Lullaby" that is deep rooted in Scottish heritage. "Chestnut" and "Parson's Farewell" from the 17th century England were very good too and I almost forgot to mention "Gloucester Wassail." But my favorites are "Breaking up Christmas" and "Cold Frosty Morning" from the musical history of Virginia. They are all moving and quite inspiring.

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June 2014. Dr. William G. Chrystal

As one who loves music of the 18th and 19th century, I have developed a fondness for the work of the Itinerant Band over the years. Their newest production, Lynnhaven Bay, certainly does not disappoint.  Containing a variety of traditional tunes, including a couple of patriotic selections, it is great period music played by a group of talented musicians. I bought extra copies to give as presents. You will want to as well.

Dr. William G. Chrystal,
Scholar/Performer of Alexander Hamilton
http://william-g-chrystal.com/

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6 June 2014.  D. Janie Guill

Comfort and Joy

Enchanting, simply enchanting!  ... This is my favorite Christmas CD and I have hundreds and hundreds.  I admit to playing it at least once a month.  In addition, I use it as soft background music for a meditation group I lead. I cannot get enough of the enchanting sound!

D. Janie Guill, Former Senior Director of Microsoft's Worldwide Procurement and Manufacturing Quality and Self-appointed Christmas Music Aficionado

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13 January 2012. Amazon.com listener contributed review of Jefferson and Liberty

The American Patriot Music That Existed Back In Those Days!

During Independence Day celebrations and similar occasions, most Americans of today encounter more contemporary music labeled as patriotic songs, often played and recorded with instrumentals and a singing style that did not exist during the time of the Revolutionary War. This album is different. It brings you the real deal, especially if what you're looking for is high-quality Revolutionary period music that's not just comprised of military fife-and-drum marches. Though military fife-and-drum sounds absolutely have their respectable place in Revolutionary and Civil War battle re-enactments, Colonial Williamsburg, and (of course) parades, the songs on this album are just as appropriate for all-American festivities as any no-nonsense rendition of "Yankee Doodle". The musical content is genteel in its historical accuracy and could be the ideal springboard for introducing kids to how grown-ups in colonial America made music and what it sounded like when played properly. I recommend this album to help set the mood for visiting a place like George Washington's estate Mount Vernon, learning how to dance in the 18th century American style, or if you just want something special and out-of-the-ordinary playing in your CD player to impress guests at your next 4th of July party. I consider the title of the album a very attractive feature too. I'm pleased that sound clips of the songs are available here and it was from those that I decided that I will be FAR from disappointed with the album after buying it.

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August/September 2011. From www.journaloftheearlyamericas.com

Opening with two lively songs, The Itinerant Band immediately brings listeners to their toes with "Smash the Windows/Kesh Jig/Tenpenny Bit" and "Fisher’s Hornpipe/Rights of Man." Seven band members and over ten instruments may seem overwhelming at first, but the band’s arrangements and humor diffuses any concerns you may have about where to direct your attention. George Bame on guitar; Paul Brockman on fiddle and vocals; Bob Clark on Hammered dulcimer; Susan Lawlor on flutes, whistles and recorders; Dave McNew on Appalachian dulcimer, bodhran, bones and vocals; Mary Normand on harp; and Marsha Wallace on guitar, octave mandolin and vocals guide you through the many working class tunes of the 1700s.

The Itinerant Band is refreshingly honest in confiding to their listeners that selections from Jefferson and Liberty: Music of 18th Century America, although well researched are all not completely period correct. Varied instrument selection and contemporarily influenced compositions set the album apart from strict historical accuracy. Nonetheless, this album allows the listener to enjoy a diverse collection of sounds, and sing along if they so desire!

What I enjoyed the most from this album was the pleasant mix of jigs, hymns and ballads. One can see how colonial America found work easier with the rhythmic beats of "John Cherokee," solace in "Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above" and courage in "British Grenadiers/La Belle Catherine/Come Dance and Sing." For the re-enactor and history admirer of the 18th century, The Itinerant Band is a favorable addition to any music library.

Summer R. Criswell, Creative Director, Journal of the Early Americas

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January 3, 2008. From SentinelSource.com

Always on the lookout for material to use in my talks about early American music, I stumbled across some CDs on the Southern Branch Music label at the Keene State College Library that I can best describe as superior. The performers on these discs call themselves The Itinerant Band. As their Web site at www.itinerantband.com discloses in greater detail, these seven players and vocalists are from the Tidewater region of Virginia and share a passion for 17th- and 18th-century American music. They are much in demand at any given time and place performing everything from airs to sea shanties to dance tunes.

One important aspect of these discs, other than the joyful renditions of these obviously dedicated artists - or rather perhaps accounting for it - is that their goal "is to interpret historic music, not to recreate it for an academic audience." They admit that their mixture of instruments would never have been found or played together three centuries ago. But after all, their "Notes on authenticity" ends with the label's ultimate goal of "aiming to have a good time."

Frank Behrens, Contributing Writer, The Keene Sentinal

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December 2006. Carol Swanson of Christmas Reviews

Itinerant means to travel from place to place, and The Itinerant Band is a superb group of seven wandering minstrels presenting early music carols and winter-themed music from the 16th to 19th centuries on Apples in Winter. This group hails from Virginia, where they regularly regale crowds of well-satisfied visitors to the Francis Land House (Virginia Beach). Ah, I wish I could attend one of The Itinerant Band's Twelfth Night performances there; these were the inspiration for this release.

Apples in Winter nicely blends instrumentals with vocal pieces, and mixes upbeat dance numbers (such as the lively opener Christmas Day Ida Mornin'/Masters in This Hall/In Dulci Jubilo with gentle songs of contemplation (such as Auld Lang Syne). The album comes with an excellent pamphlet that spells out helpful background for each cut; the group's website supplies the full lyrics and additional notes. All of the music is well done, but I especially enjoyed the excellent vocal harmonies and instrumental tapestries on the Coventry Carol/Christ Child's Lullaby medley.

This is a lovely album that will appeal to those who favor the robust, yet intensely charming, flavors of early music ensembles. Bring Apples in Winter into your home this season, and the sweet fruit will bring your family much pleasure!

Carol Swanson

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September 2004. Peter Massey, senior writer for the Green Man Review

The Itinerant Band hails from the Tidewater region of Southeast Virginia, U.S.A. They perform mainly traditional tunes and songs collected from English, Scottish, Irish, and French sources, the concept being tunes that would have been prevalent in 17th and 18th century America. They try as much as possible to keep to the arrangements ordinary working class colonial musicians may have brought with them and adhered to. Both of these albums carry a selection of such tunes as they travelled from the old country to the new. A lot of these tunes (such as 'Wind that Shakes the Barley,' 'Over the Waterfall,' 'Planxty George Brabazon,' 'Soldiers Joy,' 'Flowers of Edinburgh' and 'Swallow's Tail Reel') will already be familiar with Celtic music fans, but on these albums they are performed in a more realistic style and tempo. As a favourite on this album, however, I would have to choose 'John Chrokee,' a shanty I can't remember having heard before - brilliant.

The band has obviously taken the time to research the background for the material they have chosen. This is borne out by the nice booklets with liner notes that accompany both of the albums. The instruments used include a harp, fiddle, guitar, flute, whistles, recorders, Appalachian dulcimer, bodhran, octave mandolin, and hammered dulcimer, all of which would have been carried by the itinerants on their journey. I am not quite sure about the hammered dulcimer, but it doesn't really matter, as it lifts the tunes to a higher level and adds a nice dimension to the overall sound.

The play list for Jefferson and Libertyboasts eleven tracks. Out of these, only four are songs, one of which is the Charles Wesley hymn 'Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above.' Interestingly, they chose to play the title song for the album, 'Jefferson and Liberty', as an instrumental. Originally, this tune was called 'The Gobby-O' (Irish trad). Words that were added later on to make it 'Jefferson and Liberty' were taken from a poem by Alexander Wilson. The idea was to turn it into a presidential campaign song. The lyrics for the song are included in the liner notes.

This leads me to my only tiny criticism for the album, which is that the vocals do sound a bit nervous and less confident compared to the quality of the instrumental musicianship. This, I suspect, is the reason why they decided to present the song 'Jefferson and Liberty' as an instrumental. But, having said that, it is still a fine album from a band dedicated to presenting North American traditional music as it was, or as near as, damn it.

The Road out of Town is the latest album from the band, and they appear to have matured well, while keeping to their original concept with the music they perform. The band members are still the same: George Bame (guitar and vocals), Paul Brockman (fiddle and vocals), Bob Clark (hammered dulcimer), Susan Lawlor (flutes, whistles, and recorders), Dave McNew (Appalacian dulcimer, bodhran and vocals), Mary Normand (harp and vocals) and Marsha Wallace (guitar and mandolin).

Again, this album is more instrumental than lyrical, with only five of the fourteen tracks being songs. There are plenty of good tunes here, including 'The Blackest Crow,' 'Star of the County Down,' 'Boys of Bluehill,' 'Old French,' 'Rose Tree,' 'Morpeth Rant' and many more. My favourite song and arrangement from this album would have to be 'Down in My Sally's Garden' at track two, although the title of this song is more often known as 'The Sally Gardens.'

In conclusion, if I had to pick just one of these two albums, I would plum for The Road out of Town. But to be fair, they are both very much the same, and just as good as each other. Musically, the band plays very well and has a nice traditional sound that will be favoured by the more ethnic traditionalists amongst our readers. I particularly like the traditional period costume they wear when on stage. It's a nice touch and adds to the atmosphere they generate with the music.

A word of warning! Both these albums come with a similar notice below the play list, warning you not to make illegal copies of their CDs. (Really - as if you would.) They don't like it, and if they catch you doing such a thing, they will come and take it off you, and set the dogs on you.

Nice to see a band with a sense of humour! ~~ Peter Massey

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1 February 2004.  Joe Ross, Staff writer for Bluegrass Now Magazine www.bluegrassnowonline.com

Resonant hammered dulcimer, flighty pennywhistle, and wailing fiddle combined with some pleasant vocals and a solid rhythm section characterize the Itinerant Band's second project of traditional acoustic Celtic music. The seven musicians from southeastern Virginia draw their repertoire from a standard collection of oft-heard classic tunes that are common at Irish sessions (jams). They make me want to jump right up and grab a mandolin or concertina to play along.

The hour-long set also includes a few original surprises. I enjoyed the medley of "Red Joke (Lads of Dunse)/ Black Joke/The Young Widow," and this CD's 12-page booklet and copious liner notes explain that there were numerous popular "joke" songs in England and America, with titles referring to the hair color of the songs' subjects. I'm left wondering, however, what the bawdy lyrics are that accompany these kinds of songs. Dulcimer-player Bob Clark composed the stately "McPherson's Farewell to Creag Dhubh," as a tribute to the beauty of the Scottish countryside and his family's ancestry. Flautist Susan Lawlor's original "The Eighth of August" has no particular historical significance other than the fact that she wrote it one August afternoon while hanging out at the Oak Grove Music Festival. It's one of the best moments on the album because it is presented as a simple and lean respite with just flute and harp as a prelude to "O'Farrel's Welcome to Limerick." The album closes with Bob Clark's "The Road Out of Town," a jig that was inspired by an early map of the town of Norfolk from the late 1600s on which today's St. Paul's Boulevard was called "the road that leadeth out of town."

The Itinerant Band gets their inspiration by the playful spirit of the itinerant colonial musicians. Full of mirth and merriment, their dance medleys gallop along from one tune to the next, often with minimal arrangement. Performing in period costume, the band would be especially entertaining live at an arts festival, craft faire, public house, contra dance, Highland games, Robert Burns Night, or historical reenactment...

It's clear that these musicians enjoy what they do, and one of their goals is to have a good time doing it. Grab a pint of stout, and prepare yourself for some good craic (gaiety) as they say in Ireland. The traditional music of colonial America was a music of the people, and it still very much is. Passed down from generation to generation, folks like Virginia's Itinerant Band are keeping it fun, vibrant and alive. Their repertoire will especially thrill and appeal to those who aren't familiar with these tunes. My hope is that their next project digs even deeper for more esoteric, erudite material and original songs and tunes.

Joe Ross

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14 November 2003.  From Eric Bye, reviewer for Muzzleloader Magazine www.muzzleloadermag.com

 Folks who have attended the Eastern and Northeastern Primitive Rendezvous (and probably some others) have probably bumped into Dulcimer Dave McNew and the other half-dozen members of The Itinerant Band. The band has recorded two fine CDs: Jefferson and Liberty and The Road Out of Town. Their specialty is traditional music (with a pronounced influence from the British Isles) that was originally played "from parlors to taverns to barns to battlefields" as early as the eighteenth century. Instrumentation includes hammered dulcimer, guitar, fiddle, flutes, whistles, recorder, Appalachian dulcimer, bodhran, bones, harp, mandolin - an ample array for a full, satisfying sound and variety. Instrumental pieces predominate, but there are also some pleasing vocals.

Tunes include well-known favorites like "Smash the Windows," "Jefferson and Liberty," "The British Grenadiers," "Miss McLeod's Reel," plus a number of tunes less commonly encountered. The band excels in some medleys- "Soldier's Joy and "Liberty," for example - in which tunes with natural affinities are combined seamlessly. All the musicians are highly skilled, and their collective effort produces tight, neat tunes that will provide years of listening satisfaction. The CDs come with good liner notes, including color photos. If you appreciate traditional music performed well, you will enjoy both of these CDs.

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4 November 2003

The Road Out of Town

There is a liner note on The Road Out Of Town that says, "We are presenting a collection of the various genres and styles that would have been found from parlors to taverns to barns to battlefields, and overall aiming to have a good time."

Mission accomplished.

The Itinerant Band [is] a fine aggregation of traditional musicians who have collected a wonderful selection of songs and tunes from a couple of hundred years ago. This can often produce a dry and textbook presentation of too-familiar tunes, but these folks add a healthy dose of affection for their music that just makes you want to listen again and again. If such a thing is possible, they play with a twinkle in the eye that flirts with the listener. It is a joy to listen to.

There are a number of things about this CD that are most striking, to me, and they are as follows:
1.) I really liked the tune selection. There are some very familiar tunes - "Paddy On The Turnpike," "Star of the County Down," "Boys of Bluehill" among them - and some less familiar - "The Young Widow" being particularly nice, in my book. Some original material is also worthy of mention here. Bob Clark's "McPherson's Farewell to Creag Dhub" is a gorgeous piece that ought to be included in the repertoire of traditional musicians everywhere, if only so they can claim to be ahead of the folk process. Given time, the tune will surely become part of "the repertoire."

2.) The research done into the tunes is interesting and presented with the same "twinkling eye" as the music itself. There is both great reverence for the material and great fun in telling you about it.

I recommend this CD highly! It's entertaining and fun and will become a frequent visitor to your CD player.

Chuck Hall
Musician, songwriter and former resident of Southeast Virginia
http://www.hallfolk.com/Hallfolk.com/Welcome.html

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12 August 2003. From some friends at the Oak Grove Music Festival

Hey Dave and Mary,

What a great Festival, again. Actually, that's no surprise. They just get better and better. Good to see and hear you both and to get in a little visit in between the sets. ... And the new CD! We're really impressed and played it three times on the trip home. It is truly an impressive project from all angles and has already earned a spot on our regular rotation shelf. Please tell all the other band members that we really think it soars. I know you'll enjoy sharing it with the public and think you'll sell a bunch.

Keep on the Sunny Side,

Tom and Gail

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December 2002/January 2003. From Dirty Linen Magazine

"The music of colonial America is the specialty of The Itinerant Band, a seven-piece group from Virginia. On Jefferson and Liberty [Southern Branch Music SBM-2001CD(2001)], the repertoire largely dates from the 18th century or earlier, with familiar British import dance tunes like "Fisher's Hornpipe" and "Flowers of Edinburgh," and contemporaneous vocal pieces like the sea chantey "John Cherokee" and an obscure love song called "O! Say Bonnie Lass" from the notebook of a Revolutionary War officer. This group wisely avoids the obsession with historical authenticity that makes some similar groups unlistenably precious. The members add a few contemporary instruments like guitars and octave mandolins to the fiddles and flutes that would have been used back then, and they clearly enjoy what they're doing, playing with feeling rather than academic dryness. The resonating hammered-dulcimer leads on many of the instrumental tracks are especially lovely."

Tom Nelligan The Reel World: Small-Label Celtic & English Music

 

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