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Robin & Steve

 

MIDNIGHT HOWL

Baltimore City Paper, 1996

Some musical traditions survived the New World more or less intact. Though melodies from the British Isles would inspire the tunes in a half-dozen American genres, people continued to play these melodies as just what they were - folk music, they called it. With Midnight Howl, string whiz Robin Bullock has set out to take these traditional folk tunes and combine them with American variants, his own originals, and unusual instrumentation (including congas and bass guitar) in "a celebration of the wild American spirit." I don't know if some of his New-Age goals are achieved, but it is, indeed, a celebration.

Bullock, a member of the esteemed string trio Helicon, is one of those guys who appears to be able to play just about anything with strings disgustingly well. In addition, as Midnight Howl amply proves, he also has an inventive musical vision. He can leap from the dizzying rhythmic convolutions and dancing cittern of the opening "John MacKenzie's Fancy" to the sonorous fiddle air "Ar Eirinn Ni 'Neosfainn Ce Hi" to the rollicking "Jaybird Suite" without missing a step - and he's played almost everything himself, overdubbing as many as half a dozen different instruments.

Through the rest of the disc, he continues to dazzle in thought and deed, concocting a glowing acoustic-music feast out of traditional Celtic melodies, old-time fiddle tunes, and such not-too-shabby originals as the rippling acoustic guitar piece "Spider" and the lovely descending melody of a "New Age Celtic mambo" entitled "Rascal's Castle." And best (or worst) of all, he makes it sound easy.

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