(for Penguin Eggs magazine) Were you to hold a copy of this CD in your hands this is what you’d be thinking: What the $#$*% is this? And you’d be warranted in that thought. I’ll venture a provisional and entirely gracious answer: it’s a dog’s breakfast.
If there is any interest in this recording at all, it will come from a consideration of how many things someone can do wrong at one time, such as drinking during a recording session, recording in a barn, putting a mic in front of a kid who can’t sing, or not being able to play the instrument that you are holding in your hands. When it comes to Marah Presents: Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania, that’s not an exhaustive list, but it gets us started.
You’ll think I’m joking, but the notes that come with this CD are so small as to require a magnifying glass. Which, if you have one to hand, you can learn that (I’ll cut through all the self-congratulatory prose; you’re welcome) David Bielanko in the great state of PA found a book titled Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania at a garage sale that included some song lyrics from the 1800s. Lost gems!? Maybe, if there was actually music with them, or a suggestion of a melody, or if precisely anyone other than Bielanko had come across the book. He made up chords, melodies, noises. He bought beer, friends, and that one mic. He wrote the miniscule notes. And the result is truly impossible to turn off quick enough. It’s like electronic warfare. If you approach this recording expecting something abysmal, you won’t be disappointed.