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CD Review: Banjo Haiku

Monday, February 5, 2007

Banjo Haiku
Cathy Fink (1992)

I have thoroughly abused my cassette copy of Cathy Fink's "Banjo Haiku."  For me, Fink's playing on this recording is as close to the "gold standard" of clawhammer technique and tone that I've ever heard.  Her playing is accurate, musical, bouncy, old-timey, and whimsical.


First, Fink's rhythm is deadly accurate.  This isn't uncommon among good clawhammer players, but it's especially true of Fink.  The pulse of these tunes is so musical that you can almost hear a bass player thumping around.

Second, Fink's dynamics are varied and subtle.  It's not easy to create fine distinctions in tone and volume with the open back banjo.  Again, this is a very expressive feature of Fink's playing.

Finally, the technical aspects of Fink's playing are always perfectly aligned with the music.  No fancy stuff for the sake of fancy stuff here, but there are plenty of passages that make you wonder "how in the hell did she DO that?"  Hammer ons, pull-offs, trills, and other ornimentation are always solidly in context.

One of my favorite tunes here is the speedy "Sleepy Lu," which begins and ends at breakneck speed.  Fink also does a phenomenal job of making "Soldier's Joy" her own on this recording; this version highlights her incredible technique as well as the rock-solid rhytym that makes this record so incredible.

In many ways, this is the perfect clawhammer banjo record.  Period.


[P.S.  Check out Cathy's response below.  Coool!]

1 comment

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Playing Since: 1994
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I enjoy most music. My banjo interest is exclusively old-timey, and that's why I joined this site. I love the Skillet Lickers, Uncle Dave Macon, Earl Johnson and the Clodhoppers, the New Lost City Ramblers, and the Holy Modal Rounders. My favorite banjo players are Fred Cockerham, Tommy Jarrell, Bob Carlin, Paul Brown, Joel Mabus, Bruce Molsky, and all kinds of others. I'm also a HUGE fan of Curtis Eller's American Circus. Curtis is one of my oldest pals in the world, and the first banjo player I ever met.

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Created 12/26/2006
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I play clawhammer banjo, as well as flatpick some guitar and string bass. I love country fiddle tunes and songs along the lines of the 1920s and 1930s "old-time" and "hillbilly" recordings by The Skillet Lickers, The Carter Family, Uncle Dave Macon, Earl Johnson, The Stripling Bros, etc. I'm not actively playing banjo these days, and my presence here is kind of inactive. I'll always keep my banjo, though, and you can bet I'll be back here some day.

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