Cary Fridley

No Depression
July-August 2001

In her former band the Freight Hoppers, Cary Fridley’s rhythm guitar was the propulsive fuel that kept the group of old-time music youngsters from capsizing under the weight of tradition. That intimate familiarity with the energetic pulse of the music is transferred to her first solo recording, a fine document of her dedication to the genre.
Old-time music is typically distinguished from its grownup descendant, bluegrass, by the lack of individual solos in favor of sometimes frenetic, all-at-once ensemble playing. Fridley’s band for this recording includes the standard bass, banjo, and fiddle, with Bill Monroe veteran Art Stamper filling that last role. Fridley’s singing should strike a chord with fans of Iris DeMent or Hazel Dickens, as she shares the cracked Appalachian sincerity of their unvarnished sound, untarnished by the modern world’s expectations. On the a cappella “Young Emily”, Fridley conjures up a deliciously creepy take on the song (by Dellie Norton) with nothing more than her voice, relying on her inner sense of rhythm to propel the tune.
Stamper is a constant presence, and even takes front-and-center on his own “Bumblebee In The Gourd”, an upbeat fiddle instrumental. Elseswhere, Fridley tackles four tunes from the Carter Family Songbook, two from the Coon Creek Girls, and one each from Fiddlin’ John Carson and Flatt & Scruggs.
She seems most at home with Carter Family material, rendering a gently swinging “Shadow of the Pines” and an appropriately chugging “Cannonball Blues”. Though they could be considered overdone warhoreses of ol-time music, in Fridley’s capable hands the songs are given new life. The rediscovery, rejuvenation and reinterpretation of tunes both long lost and intimately familiar is a large part of the music’s enduring appeal, and Fridley, despite being several generations removed, realizes that.
---Kevin Oliver

Bluegrass Unlimited
August 2001

Cary Fridley has surrounded herself with some fine musicians for her debut solo CD: Art Stamper and bandmate Barry Benjamin on fiddle, Larry Perkins on lead guitar, banjo, and bass, Jake Owen on banjo, Chris Sharp on guitar, and fellow former Freight Hopper McLean Bissell on bass. With fine production by Bob Carlin, she has selected material from giants of old-time music: the Carter Family (“Cannonball Blues,” “Shadow Of The Pines,” and “On A Hill Lone & Gray”), the Coon Creek Girls (“Uncle Dudy” and “Banjo Picking Girl”), Frank Profitt, Dellie Norton, Fiddling John Carson & Moonshine Kate, Rosa Lee Watson, Lee Wallin, and Art’s father, Hiram Stamper. The one bluegrass song included is Flatt & Scruggs “Down The Road.” Note that the fifth cut, which I think is called “Gathering Flowers,” was left off the list on the CD and in the liner notes.
The vocals are a mix of slow, sweet numbers such as “Cannonball Blues,” which opens the CD and more uptempo or highly-edged tunes which particularly suit Fridley’s voice. “Young Emily,” from Dellie Norton, is part of the solo a cappella female singing tradition of western North Carolina and allows Fridley to demonstrate how she can sin with a sharp edge. “Early Early In The Spring,” from Rosa Lee Watson, is in the same tradition. Art Stamper contributes some wonderful fiddling. Art has been cross tuning his fiddle lately and playing some of the old tunes he learned from his father. On the recording, he plays his father’s “Young Edward,” his own “Bumblebee In The Gourd,”and “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.”

The Old-Time Herald
Fall 2001

Cary Fridley occupied the guitar chair of the Freight Hoppers for five years. The were one of the most entertaining traditional old-time string bands to emerge in recent years, due in no small part to the contribution made by Cary’s intense, driving rhythm guitar playing and powerful, emotionally direct singing. She embarked on a solo career in 1999.
Fridley reports, “No one in my immediate family played or sang traditional music, other than the little rhymes and funny old songs that my grandparents taught me. Most of my old-time influence has come from records, tapes, and seeking out live music. I grew up in Covington, Virginia, and was able to go to festivals and concerts locally, as well as at the Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington (VA) where I saw great musicians like Mike Seeger, John Hammond, and [Michael Doucet with] Beausoleil. When I was in high school, I was learning to play bluegrass banjo and would go to the Fiddle and Banjo Club in Roanoke. I eventually went to Augusta [Heritage Center, Elkins, WV] for Bluegrass Banjo Week where I encountered old-time music. I taped a fiddle session, and it was the most beautiful music I had ever heard! I was hooked.”
Cary trained classically as a flautist and vocalist. Before her current career, she was a public school music educator. In contrast, she assimilates traditional vocal styles with the instinctive, non-analytic approach of a folk musician. Her stated vocal influences include Carters, Watsons, Monroes, and modern continuators of the tradition such as Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, and Carol Elizabeth Jones, but she says “their influence on me is more a matter of hearing an accomplished, focused musician communicating an old song, and being inspired to look deeper into my own music.”
The present recording spans of the genres of archaic traditional unaccompanied Appalachian singing, early commercial country music, and early “traditional” bluegrass. The cording “produced and engineered by Bob Carlin and Steven Heller was done digitally, mostly without overdubs. The sound quality is superb. Warmth and air resonance is preserved by careful microphone placement, giving performances a sense of immediacy and reality that is sometimes lacking in hyper-accurate Nashville style production. The vocal is centered and prominent in the mix. Individual instrument timbers are accurately reproduced, occupy an uncluttered sonic space, and are well balanced with the voice. The selection “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” from Fiddlin’ John Carson and Moonshine Kate exemplifies these characteristics, and is on the of the best versions of the song I’ve heard.
Fridley’s control of her diction is unusually precise. This allows her to achieve extremely clear and expressive phrasing. The emotional range of her singing is breathtaking. She is capable of producing tender, childlike sotto voce passages as well as the full throated, snarling, ancient sounds that echoed centuries ago from isolated hollers in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her approach may be viewed as a musical blending of raw power with warmth and mystery. She says modestly, “My voice is naturally loud and somewhat cutting, which I think is good for country music.” Although Cary presents powerful unaccompanied ballads (notably “Early, Early In the Spring” from Rosa Lee Watson” and a moving, primitive version of Frank Proffit’s “Pretty Crowing Chicken” (accompanied by Jake Owen’s idiomatically perfect fretless banjo playing), this reviewer is particularly impressed by the sensitive ensemble interplay shown in the early commercial country music selections. Flatt and Scruggs’ “Down the Road” receives a textbook-perfect treatment, powered by the call and response of Cary’s swooping voice and cracker jack Scruggs style banjo playing of Larry Perkins. Cary and band are firmly in their element of three Carter Family songs, which display a gentle give and take between simple instrumental embellishments, lead, and harmony vocals. A precise reading of “Banjo Picking Girl” is the appropriate conclusion to this fine collection. As a added non-vocal treat, Cary’s trademark backup guitar playing anchors Art Stamper’s exciting reading of his tune “Bumblebee in the Gourd.” A second (possibly unintentional?) treat is an unlisted bonus cut: the song “Gathering Flowers”from Dillard Chandler , which also features the expressive fiddling of Art Stamper. Highly recommended.
--Steve Senderhoff

. Neighbor Girl
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  1. Cannonball Blues
  2. Pretty Crowing Chicken
  3. Young Emily
  4. Wildwood Flower
  5. Bumblebee In The Gourd
  6. Gathering Flowers
  7. Uncle Dudy
  8. Shadow Of The Pines
  9. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
  10. Early Early In The Spring
  11. Neighbor Girl
  12. Down The Road
  13. Young Edward
  14. On A Hill Lone & Gray
  15. Banjo Picking Girl
Catalog # juba-01 $14.99
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. Vocal Techniques For Old-Time
Mountain Music

60-minute Video

Here's a lesson for those who want to sing in the powerful styles developed throughout the years by the rural mountain musicians of the southern Appalachians. This type of music is typified by the straightforward honesty and strong, cutting sound heard both on old field recordings and in many contemporary country performances.

Cary Fridley, the popular singer in the old-time string band The Freight Hoppers, covers basics of vocal production such as proper breathing and posture. She provides exercises for getting a strong, resonant sound, showing how this music should be sung with your "chest voice" as opposed to your "head voice," and how to project and hold notes with proper support from the diaphragm. In addition, she covers such topics as how to "fix" out of tune notes, and demonstrates duet singing with Frank Lee on the Carter Family classics Anchored in Love and Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea.

Most importantly, these songs tell a story, and Cary shows how she phrases and interprets beautiful old-time ballads such as I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, A Roving On A Winter's Night and the a cappella lament My Love Has Brought Me To Despair.

As an extra treat, the Freights join Cary for a spirited performance of Prettiest Little Girl in the County.

Catalog # fhv-101 $19.99
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Freight Hoppers

"The Freight Hoppers have become one of the tightest bands in old time music. Good rocking dance tunes and beautiful two part harmony coupled with a good sense of humor. Hop on board." --John Herrmann The Freight Hoppers play a mixture of rollicking old time dance tunes and traditional songs from the golden age of old time music (the 1920s and '30s). They ride the same rails that the Skillet Lickers, the Georgia Yellowhammers, and the Carter Family rode. Their music is the music that preceded bluegrass and modern country music and from which those later forms evolved in the '40s and '50s. It is music from the age of the steam locomotive.

Harmony Ridge Music Review
I first saw the Freight Hoppers at the Fathers Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley California in 1998. They were the highlight of the festival for me and the best new high energy band I've discovered since Laura Love. The fiddle player David Bass is the most intense energetic fiddler I've ever seen. He doesn't wimpily hold the bow like a ballet dancer with fiddle parallel to the ground, but rather grabs the bow like a warrior with sword, fiddle perpendicular to the ground, and flailes the strings. You can see the bow rosin form a cloud and settle like fog on the golden gate bridge. Not only that, he clogs, ala Ashley McIssac, all the while.

Cary Fridley is the guitar player and shares vocals with the banjo player Frank Lee. Like all the members of this group, she's a virtual ball of energy dancing, thumping and wailing on that guitar. At times she reminds me of Iris Dement in mannerisms and downright artistic honesty. Their power lies in the 100% giving of all they have, simplicity of form, and unbelievable rhythms.

The banjo player Frank Lee is the most unconventional banjo player I've seen. He's altered the banjo eliminating the last few frets at what he calls the sweet spot on the banjo, and this area on the neck is where he plays. He uses a claw hammer style, and gets a horse trotting thumping underlying rhythm from the instrument. If You get a chance to catch these guys live, don't miss it.
---Jack Sutton

. Where'd You Come From, Where'd DYou Go
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  1. Sandy River
  2. Cotton Eyed Joe
  3. Mississippi Breakdown
  4. Little Sadie
  5. Texas Gals
  6. Johnson Boys
  7. Logan County Blues
  8. Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm
  9. Four Cent Cotton
  10. Cornbread, Molasses & Sassafras Tea
  11. Dark Hollow Blues
  12. Elzik's Farewell
  13. Pretty Little Girl
  14. How Many Biscuits Can You Eat This Morning?
  15. Kentucky Whiskey
  16. Bright Morning Stars
Catalog # fhcd-100 $14.99
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. Waiting On The Gravy Train
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  1. Trouble
  2. Backstep Cindy
  3. Anchored In Love
  4. Molly Put The Kettle On
  5. Ways Of The World
  6. Warfare
  7. Polecat Blues
  8. Nobody's Business
  9. A Roving On A Winters Night
  10. Fall On My Knees
  11. Fort Smith Breakdown
  12. We Shall All Be Reunited
  13. Wild Fling In The Woodpile
  14. Hell Broke Loose In Georgia
  15. Young Emily
  16. Shotrenin' Bread
Catalog # fhcd-101 $14.99
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. Live At The Bearsville Barn

45-minute Video
The Freight Hoppers are the most exciting and entertaining old-time string band on the scene today! Their driving rhythm, powerful vocals and strong musicianship have endeared them to a devoted and fast-growing following that extends far beyond the country music scene.

This special session, video taped in Woodstock, NY, captures the band in action as they perform eight traditional songs and fiddle tunes with their typical high spirits and infectious enthusiasm. As an added bonus, each band member discusses his or her instrumental style, background and musical influences for the benefit of fans and learning players.

Few ensembles in any style of music can match the energy or entertainment abilities of this unique band. Get this video and see what all the excitement is about!

Songs: Sugar Hill, Reuben's Train, Banjo Picking Girl, Won't You Come and Go, Arkansas Sheik, Pretty Little Widow, Money in Both Pockets and God Gave Noah The Rainbow Sign.

Catalog # fhv-100 $19.99
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. Old-Time Banjo Clawhammer Style
Taught By Frank Lee

55-minute Video

Frank Lee, of the sensational old-time band The Freight Hoppers, breaks down the traditional Round Peak clawhammer style that has become his trademark. He teaches seven great tunes and the "tricks of the trade" that make his playing stand out in the field of old-time banjo players.

You'll learn right hand techniques for drop thumb playing, and how Frank gets his percussive upbeat "clucking" sound; his use of a pick on his middle finger; the "diddy-bop" lick; the famous "Galax" lick; and the details of his banjo set-up. In addition, Frank teaches some invaluable exercises to improve technique and musicianship, as well as closed chord positions, scales, chord substitutions and other important information to allow you to play up and down the banjo neck.

Frank discusses and analyzes - in detail - all of the techniques necessary to play a variety of tunes in a number of unusual tunings, including Half Shaved, Cider Mill, Shaving a Dead Man, Shortnin' Bread, Stony Point (Pigtown Fling), and Hell Broke Loose in Georgia. Fiddler David Bass joins Frank to show how a banjo and fiddle work together in a traditional tune like Sandy Boys, and the entire band joins in for a rousing finale.

Catalog # fhv-102 $19.99
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Rayna Gellert

Rayna Gellert grew up surrounded by traditional music. In addition to the influence of her father (renowned old-time musician Dan Gellert), Rayna cites Marcus Martin and Uncle Bunt Stephens as particular influences on her fiddle style. After years of playing fiddle at sessions and dances in the Asheville area, Rayna began playing guitar and singing with The Freight Hoppers in January 2000. She has twice placed 3rd in the fiddle contest at the Appalachian Stringband Music Festival ("Clifftop"), has toured Europe and has been a popular instructor at The Swannanoa Gathering. She recently released her first recording, "Ways of the World." She is also listed in the "Old Time Fiddler's Hall of Fame at the Old Time Music home page.

. Ways Of The World
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  1. Great Big Taters In The Sandy Land
  2. Julianne Johnson,
  3. Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss,
  4. Ducks On The Millpond
  5. Old Yeller Dog Come Trottin Through The Meeting House
  6. Cotton-eyed Joe
  7. Ways Of The World
  8. Willow On The Lake
  9. Little Girl With The Hair All Down Behind
  10. I've Got No Honeybaby Now
  11. Sugar In The Gourd
  12. Charleston #1
  13. Where's That Preacher With The Rabbi's Wife
  14. Sally Comin' Through The Rye
  15. Swannanoa Waltz
  16. Wagoner One-step
  17. Jenny Ran Away In The Mud In The Night
  18. ArkansasTraveler
  19. She Lied To Me
  20. Winder Slide.
Catalog # rgcd-100 $14.99
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Kimberly M'Carver

Kimberly's Rounder Records (Philo) releases, Breathe the Moonlight & Inherited Road, drew rave reviews, nominations (Best Independent Record, CA) & charted on Americana.

... The Houstonite's soprano could have been developed by NASA; light and delicate as gossamer, strong and flexible as titanium, a marvelously nuanced instrument that, for all its gentleness and elegance, effortlessly dominates the proceedings. This isn't just good separations in the recording, she does it live as well. M'Carver could well have achieved commercial success simply as a diva, but she's also a remarkable songwriter, whose folk-country has a similar dichotomy, combining poignant vulnerability with cool self-assurance. After a seven year interval, her third album, with eight originals informed by much musical and life experience and gorgeous covers of Greg Trooper's Ireland and Townes Van Zandt's Niles River Blues, is poised to garner even more critical acclaim than her much lauded Rounder albums, Breathe The Moonlight and Inherited Road, and rightfully so.
John Conquest, 3rd Coast Music

When it comes to country-folk, few can compete with Kimberly M'Carver ... When one listens to the first three songs‚ Death and Texas, Return to Me, and Santa Fe‚ of Cross the Danger Line, he or she knows that M'Carver has hit upon the right approach: a hot band and superb song choices topped by her expressive voice, confident and comfortable ... M'Carver seems content writing within the confines of country, penning songs about love lost and found, hot nightspots, and the lonesomeness of a train whistle. This works in her favor. She avoids the cliches of the genre ... Both Santa Fe and Sweetest Surrender have the feeling of classics … For those who have copies of M'Carver's first two albums, no prodding will be needed to pick up a copy of her latest effort. For those unfamiliar, Cross the Danger Line will be a good place to start one's love affair with this fine country-folk artist.
Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., All Music Guide

. Cross The Danger Line
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  1. Death And Texas
  2. Return To Me
  3. Santa Fe
  4. Squeeze Inn
  5. When I Hear Trains
  6. Sweetest Surrender
  7. You Ain't No Palomino
  8. Ireland
  9. Fix 'N Paint
  10. Niles River Blues
Catalog # pcd-76 $14.99
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. Inherited Road
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  1. Inherited Road 4:12
  2. Cassidy Jane 4:28
  3. This Cold Night 3:09
  4. Dancin' Fools 4:24
  5. Blue Norther 2:56
  6. New Orleans Waltz 5:53
  7. Waiting 2:56
  8. Coyote Dance 5:20
  9. Alimentar Milama 4:22
  10. Midnight Angel 4:52
  11. Texas Man 3:04
  12. San Luis 2:51
Catalog # phi1179 $14.99
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. Breathe The Moonlight
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There are so many talented Texas-bred singer/songwriters around these days, anyone attempting to count them all on his fingers would certainly be using his toes by now. Well, take off the other shoe, because here comes Kimberly M'Carver. She's a native of Dallas who began writing songs in 1984 and started performing her own material in 1986. Kimberly wrote all the music and words on Breathe the Moonlight, her 11-track debut album.

M'Carver has an excellent, clear, very expressive voice which she uses to great advantage to convey the mood of her lyrics. Her presentation is so in-touch with the meaning of her songs, I'd wager that listeners who do not understand the English language will be able to feel the mood of each track nevertheless.

"Silver Wheeled Pony" is a pensive song about an old wheelchair-bound cowboy who can only reminisce about his days on the range and in the rodeo: "He's a six-pack tellin' stories, and inbetween the lies,/ A sparkle shines, deep behind, the red in his eyes." She sings in such a convincing manner, she makes me believe that I actually know this guy. In "Whistle Down the Wind," her vocal approach is more excited and bouncy, perfectly reflecting the feeling of a young woman who is mesmerized by a mysterious stranger and his "whistle so clear and soft she never heard before and would not forget soon." "Borrowed Time" is one of the best "getting older" songs I've ever heard, written and performed with a persuasive optimism that's bound to touch even a hardened cynic.

Acoustic instruments - guitar (Kimberly and Dennis M'Carver and Jeff White), fiddle and mandolin (Stuart Duncan), dobro (Jerry Douglas), upright bass (Roy Husky, Jr.) - provide the backing for Kimberly's compositions. The arrangements are spare and appropriately understated; just as every painting can be enhanced with the proper frame, these musicians bring out the best in all M'Carver's songs. Breathe the Moonlight is an impressive first album in all respects.
Al Riess...Dirty Linen

  1. Silver Wheeled Pony 4:02
  2. Whistle Down The Wind 3:21
  3. Cryin' Wolf 3:56
  4. Borrowed Time 3:64
  5. Only In My Dreams 4:40
  6. Jose's Lullaby 3:51
  7. Springtime Friends 3:16
  8. My Way Back Home To You 2:46
  9. Carnival Man 4:04
  10. Serious Doubt 3:48
  11. Texas Home 2:40
Catalog #phi1129 $14.99
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