Hen's Teeth and PuffnSaw - American Old Timey in Scotland

from Ed Savage, Celtic DJ at WWUH-Fm (and wwuh.org) in Hartford, CT, USA. 

Jane Rothfield and Nathan Bontrager,
"Hen's Teeth: Off-the-Cuff and On-the-Fly" (iFiddle
Records)  https://hensteethduo.bandcamp.com/releases

Jane Rothfield and Brendan Power,
PufNSaw: Roots Harmonica and Fiddle Music.” (Power & Rothfield
recording) www.brendan-power.com,
. Order at janerothfield@gmail.com 

Jane Rothfield has made an enviable
reputation as a contra-band musician, banjo and fiddle teacher, and
collaborative performer.  In Jane Rothfield's many excursions in
Europe she runs across talented musicians who are dedicated to
old-time music, with a modern twist. These two London recordings
show the strengths of the products of those collaborations.

The 12 cuts on the “Hens Teeth” CD
range from traditional tunes to Rothfield's own compositions, which
are tuneful and in a few cases really memorable – “Theo's waltz”
has a beautiful lyrical feeling, and “Way Down the River” had my
toes tapping and jaws flapping with the whimsical lyrics by
Rothfield's spouse, Allan Carr,  originally from Aberdeen.

Janie is based near Philadelphia and
since forming HEN'S TEETH in 2016, she and Bontrager have done two
tours in Europe performing at venues and teaching music workshops in
England, Scotland, Belgium, Holland and Germany as well as touring
the USA last summer. Nathan hails from the north-eastern USA but
currently lives in Germany, where he has studied Baroque Cello and
Viola da Gamba in German conservatories and branched out to “new
music” on the Continent.

Teeth” has the energy of an improvisational jam session with bows
to some of the important West Virginia and North Carolina fiddlers,
specifically Ernie Carpenter and Joe Blalock. This gives their
performances a unique place in the international folk process--
old-time and modern improv.

Jane Rothfield and Brendan Power,
"PufNSaw: Roots Harmonica and Fiddle Music," is a
powerful collaboration between international exponents of the "old
– timey" tradition.  Power won
the 1993 All Ireland harmonica title, but he
hails from New
Zealand. He now is in the UK, and blends his harmonica noting and
harmonies with Rothfield's superb banjo and fiddle work, a couple of
the cuts on this CD bowing in the direction of the Cold Mountain
film work of Dirk Powell and Tim Erickson. The stronger pieces are
inspired revisions of traditional tunes with Power's harmonica taking
“Over the Waterfall” through a cataract of blues chords and
single note bending work. The PufNSaw CD has a great variety of reels
waltzes and some airs captured with the energy of a improvisational
studio session which allows the creativity of these musicians to

They first met at the legendary La
Grande Rencontre festival in Montreal . This was the first time Power
had jammed with an Old-Time fiddler, and he explains the challenge of
working with Rothfield:

“I love the way the fiddles sound in
this genre! The melodies are obviously derived from Irish and
Scottish roots, but Blues and Cajun have mixed in along the way to
make Old Timey fiddle playing very soulful, and swinging. The soul
comes from the way the fiddlers bend into the notes, and that was
something I wanted to capture on harmonica. Normal harps can only
bend a few notes, but they were bending everything! I found the only
way I could get that universal bending ability was with X-Reed (extra
reed) harmonicas, so I set about experimenting with different types
and tunings.”

The result, on PufNSaw, is sure to
inspire the aspiring Old Time musician and entertain the rest of us.

Sign In or Register to comment.