Hard Labour: English Dulcimer and Squeeze Box
Bill Howarth and Pip Ives
Although not much is known of its origins, the trapezoid dulcimer (not to be confused with the American mountain dulcimer) can be traced back several thousand years. Over this time, variants of the instrument have been played in many countries and known by different names. So far is England is concerned, there is evidence of the dulcimer having been played since mediaeval times, but no record of the sound of these early instruments survives. The best information available on English dulcimer playing is drawn largely from the East Anglian tradition, in which dulcimer playing has continued into modern times in the hands of a small number players. Despite this long-term decline in popularity (perhaps since the invention of the piano) it is good to report increasing interest in the dulcimer in England and beyond and its growing use in folk and other kinds of music.
This CD taps into the English folk roots of the dulcimer, both as an instrument for song accompaniment and as a melody instrument playing traditional folk dance tunes with the dulcimer's distinctive ringing sound of beaters on strings. The dulcimer parts are complimented by chordal backing parts played on a range of squeeze boxes (melodeons and concertinas) which alternatively take a melody lead alongside the dulcimer in the tunes. Alongside these, further melody lines are provided by the oboe and an occasional backing part provided by guitar or banjo. The overall effect is certainly distinctive and may, possibly, provide an insight into the role of the dulcimer in folk music making in times past.
Bill Howarth plays a Dusty Strings dulcimer throughout, though some bass dulcimer parts have been added on a dulcimer made by Jerry Read Smith. Bill has sung and played English music for folk dancing at folk gatherings of all kinds, and is a regular player in pubs, folk clubs and sessions in East Kent.
Pip Ives plays a Paolo Soprani Elite 2 D/G melodeon and a C/G Wheatstone Anglo concertina on this album. The guitar and banjo parts are also played by Pip, who is primarily a player of traditional English traditional tunes. Pip has played for various dance teams up and down the UK and is a regular at UK folk festivals and Kent sessions.
"Hard Labour; English Dulcimer and squeezebox" is available to purchase now, for £10 including postage and packaging.
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Here is the track list including a couple of samples from the album:
1. In NewlynTown
2. Watson’s Hornpipe / The Lass of Paties Mill
3. The Constant Lovers
4. Sheffield Hornpipe / Manchester Hornpipe
5. The Night Visiting Song (click the track name to listen)
6. Sir John Fenwick is the Flower Among them All / Sir Sidney Smith’s March
7. The Lily of the West
8. The Bugle Quickstep / Barbury Bell
9. The Dark Eyed Sailor
10. Tip Top Polka / Redwing (click the track name to listen)
11. The Foggy Dew