A Great Acoustics Sampler
The Opal Ring
by Lorraine Lee Hammond Real folk-music: old ballads and contemporary songs, with expert accompaniment on acoustic instruments.
Lorraine Lee Hammond opens her latest CD with some of the sweetest notes ever produced on the mountain dulcimer. She exits 10 songs later singing “love comes full circle in this ring.”
The 11 songs on “The Opal Ring,” on the Snowy Egret Music label, represent a deliciously melodious memoir. Hammond, a multi-instrumentalist acclaimed as one of the nation’s finest dulcimer players, and no stranger to coffeehouse stages in The Sun Chronicle region, returns to her earliest musical roots around Sharon Mountain in Connecticut, in the overlooked northern section of the otherwise musically celebrated Appalachians. Buy from CD Baby »
One of the town characters of her girlhood in West Cornwall, Conn., was an eccentric fiddler with a taste for wine. She pays tribute to him in the opening cut, “Comfort Starr,” blending a story of children taking a forbidden peek into a hermit’s tarpaper shack with a refrain toasting his skills: “Ragtime Annie, Hole in the Wall, Bach and Rachmaninoff, he played ’em all.”
Another was Oscar Degreenia, a man who was at once illiterate and a trove of ancient ballads. Hammond, accompanied on most cuts by her guitar virtuoso husband Bennett, “covers” DeGreenia’s versions of “Back of Yonder Mountain,” “Andrew Bataan,” “House Carpenter,” “Mary on the Wild Moor” and “Young But Daily Growing.”
These are intermingled with songs written by Hammond, who has lived in Brookline for many years, about her childhood and related memories. “Heart for a Song,” about the Cornwall, Conn., Grange hall, would make a fitting theme song for any country or contra dance gathering. “Highway Crew” remembers her father’s long nights driving a plow truck, the snow representing “pennies from heaven” as a chance to bring in some hard-earned extra money. “The Old Road” is a reverie from a trip down the Jersey Pike — “give me the old road,” she sings, “I want to slow down.”
Opal Ring review
“My Mother’s Opal Ring,” about a ring inherited from her mother, pulls it all together under a heartfelt bow.
I’ll confess to a favorite of the 11 songs. “Pretty Betty Martin,” is listed as “traditional.” I’ve heard folk musicians of all stripes and from both ends of the Appalachians perform this in all sorts of ways and with varied lyrics. Something about this song makes it cliche-proof. And Hammond plays it straight, with no adornment save a simple dulcimer and guitar accompaniment. The purity of it underlines “The Opal Ring’s” unifying theme: a celebration of simpler musical times, and the longing to return to them.
~ MARK FLANAGAN is opinion pages editor of The Sun Chronicle.
Cape and Islands Ways
Originally the sound-track for a television show of the same name, this CD features rather stately arrangements of some good old folksongs, but it also includes the most up-to-date recordings of Lorraine’s brilliant tunes First Light, Robin and The Free Spirit. Ordering info below »
A blend of original and traditional music, this beautiful CD unites our love for the story-songs and ballads, crooked fiddle tunes and contradance settings of traditional folk music with our own contemporary voice as writers. It is our most produced recording, with an all-star set of accompanying musicians. Buy from CD Baby »
Peace on Earth
Familiar and obscure, merry and wistful, traditional and contemporary Christmas music the way we play it when we’re at home, mostly just guitar and dulcimer. This one is all instrumental. Peace on Earth vol. II will include vocals. Read a Review | Buy from CD Baby »
The RockaFolky Banjo Tapes
A brief but rowdy solo multi-track home recording (properly remixed and mastered in a studio). What Bennett does when Lorraine is away. Buy from CD Baby »
The Muddy River Suite
Lorraine’s Chamber Folk orchestral portrait of Colonial Brookline. Mostly instrumental tunes based in the popular dance music of the day, it includes the Ballad Of Mistress Hibbbins, a local property owner too clever to suit her neighbors, who was the first person in Massachusetts to be hanged for a witch. Buy from CD Baby »
Lorraine’s first solo record ( with expert back-up musicians, of course! ), this is a songwriter’s showcase. But it weaves traditional material through and through, including some of the songs and ballads that Lorraine grew up with. Ordering info below »
Hell Up Coal Holler
Lorraine joins fiddler Gerry Milnes for a set of knock-down, drag-out traditional West Virginia fiddle tunes. This is the Mountain dulcimer in its wild state. Ordering info below »
An Exultation of Dulcimers
Reissue of the classic collaboration between Lorraine Hammond, using her traditionally-based style, and Roger Nicholson, whose personal fingerstyle approach suggests the lute, harpsichord and pipes. With Jean Ritchie, Rick Lee and Jake Walton. Ordering info below »
This is our first CD, reissued at last! Just guitar and dulcimer, pure and simple. Ordering info below »
To order recordings that are not available from CD Baby, please send us a check (made out to Great Acoustics) for $17.50 for the first CD, and $15 for each additional CD (this includes postage costs). Please include your phone or email address so that we can contact you with any questions we may have about your order. Your order may also include titles which are listed here as being available from CD Baby, so that you don’t have to place separate orders.
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