Magazine articles

Marah presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania

(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.

 

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3 replies »

  1. Dear Glen, Thank you for your incisive, biting critique. Sometimes the truth hurts, but thank you for your bravery and honesty to point out what was right in front of our eyes. The band has folded, and we have sold our instruments. Dave Bielanko took a job at a WalMart where he is climbing the ranks to assistant manager. The rest of us have done likewise. We are sorry for making you angry but hopefully this recent life redirection will atone, somewhat. PS thanks for the hint about Nickel Creek! We are all huge Nickel Creek fans now! Unlike us, they can really play their instruments! We hope you’re not still angry at us! with regrets, Mtn Minstrelsy of PA

    • HI Kai! Just a quick FYI: it seems that someone has forgotten to place a quote from my review on your site. I see lots of great notice there. Swerve magazine calls it a “hellhole” and Bill Bentley that it “is no substitute for freedom.” Elsewhere I see that a blogger who goes by the name of “lighting_farts_on_fire” responded with “mixed feelings.” You could quote me as saying “you won’t be disappointed.” I just appreciate being part of the conversation.

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