THE PRAIRIE ACRE – ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES
2011 – self released
If ever a band breathed new life into old time traditional music it has to be Prairie Acre on this excellent new recording. They are certainly a ‘Stringband’ but are so much more as well, with their interpretations of some obscure, ancient folk songs, many of which can be traced back several centuries to the British isles.
The four tremendous musicians that make up the band are Tricia Spencer on fiddle, Noah Musser plays banjo, Virginia Musser, bass and Greg Yother on guitar. Noah and Tricia take most of the lead vocals with the other two providing excellent harmonies, adding up to a highly evocative old time folksy sound that very few can match. The predominant instruments are the fiddle and banjo and slightly unusually, the fiddle often takes the lead, not because of any mixing problems but simply because that is obviously what this band of excellent musicians feel stamps their identity on the music. Greg Yothers excellent acoustic guitar playing only takes the lead on a couple of occasions but with Virginia Musser’s bass always in evidence helps provide a solid foundation for their overall sound as required by the songs and instrumental tunes. The vocals are always excellent, with the harmonies often having a slight, but appealing, element of discordancy, in much the same way as some of the great old time bands of the past!
There are fairly strong similarities between this excellent band and the recently reviewed ‘Old Sledge,’ with Prairie Acre having that same edginess and authenticity, even extending to some obscure, if excellent, song choices. It would be churlish to compare musical quality, both bands being superb, but the biggest difference is that whilst the bass player is not credited by Old Sledge, with Prairie Acre being a four piece, the bass player is given equal credit. Also, it could well be just my imagination but Prairie Acre seem to have a slightly more folksy leaning than Old sledge but this may be taking analysis a little too far!
The traditional Wildwood Flower is given a beautiful reading that never strays far from the standard with Tricia’s lead vocals and Greg’s harmonies blending well to give an excellent edginess. Brown Eyed Rabbit differs from most of the rest of the album, having a very Cajun sound to Greg’s vocals and sawing fiddle, with the banjo plinking away in the background and strong harmonies on the chorus. Paddy Won’t You Drink Some Cider is another old song driven by fiddle and banjo with some really good harmonies and is easily imagined being played on a front porch get together many decades ago! The same could be said of their excellent renditions of Dance All Night and Jordan Is A Hard Road To Travel with the driving fiddle lead and homely good time harmonies. In fact the same imaginary idea of the music having been recorded at a hoedown in an Appalachian hollow, many decades ago can be applied to virtually the whole of this excellent old time album, with high quality instrumentals such as Hay Mow, Irish Polka and Pretty Betty Martin adding an essential variety to the whole.
This is the fourth album of self released recordings by this tremendous band in the 21st century. If you like this one, get the others, they are just as good!