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Album Review

Down to the Cider Mill, a collection of songs recorded between 1967-1971, is the companion volume to Stay All Night...and Don't Go Home. The players, Oscar Jenkins, Fred Cockerham, and Tommy Jarrell, had been high-quality performers of old-time music for a number of years, and this project gave them a chance to shine once again. The beauty of the project is its authenticity, a quality (or, some would say, a feeling) that's difficult to define in print. As with Stay All Night, one might describe recordings that grace Down to the Cider Mill, songs like "John Brown's Dream" and "Cumberland Gap," as giving the impression that the producers just set up the microphones in the studio and let the tape roll. The working aesthetic, then, is folk rather than pop, so the use of normal studio trickery — overdubbing, reverb, and compression — seems nonexistent. There are significant differences between Down to the Cider Mill and its companion volume, however. On Down to the Cider Mill, Jarrell's vocals on "Suzanna Gal" and "Cumberland Gap" seem less powerful, more ragged around the edges. This weakness is nonetheless balanced by Cockerham's distinctive banjo style, filled with fancy runs and a bouncy style. Of the two volumes, Stay All Night offers a better overall choice, but when it comes to real old-time music, both are the real deal. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

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