Text of the Summer 1998 Different Strummer review of "Shaker's Fancy." Review written by Sandi Vitek
I was playing this CD at work when my officemate returned from lunch and commented on the relaxing quality of the music. I, on the other hand, found it so engrossing that I was unable to concentrate. Then another co-worker walked in and commented on the uniqueness of the music, asking what instruments were playing (she not being a folkie), as she had "never heard music that pretty."
The title cut, according to the liner notes, takes its name from the "simple elegance reminiscent of Shaker design furniture, functional, strong, and elegant." While the melody line may be a "simple tune," what Steve does with that tune is true elegance. Beginning with the dulcimer, the tune slowly builds, adding a viola (played by son Brandon), guitar (played by Jerry Rockwell) and plucked psaltery (also played by Steve). As I listened to the cut I found myself becoming more and more intrigued with the interplay of the instruments and the nuances of the countermelodies and harmonies.
Most of the tunes have a mellow quality reminiscent of Renaissance music, with notable exceptions. The Black Nag, a traditional English country dance, becomes a delightful jig. Steve & Jerry Blues, an improvised blues number, sounds like it came from the Mississippi Delta. Steve's improvisations in Dulcimer Improvisation and Psaltery Improvisation sound as though he has been playing them for years rather than having composed them on the spot.
I especially enjoyed the plucked psaltery on the album. Having mostly been exposed to bowed psaltery, I found the plucked variety refreshing and almost harp-like.
Familiar tunes such as Southwind, Minuet Formerly in G (Steve's variation on Bach's Minuet in G), White Coral Bells/Londonderry Air, and a medley of Stephen Foster songs are presented with just enough of a twist to keep you wondering what will happen next.
Is there anything I didn't like? Only that it ended after 53 minutes.
Steve's best album yet!
(c) 1998 by Sandi Vitek
used by permission