Coming from traditional Old Time music, an album of cover songs sounds pretty redundant - after all, the whole stream of tradition involves reworking music that has been passed down through generations. Yet skilled clawhammer banjo player and songwriter Evie Ladin has always collaborated with diverse musicians who listen across genres, exploring the fluid boundary between old and new. With bass player Keith Terry and guitarist Erik Pearson, the Evie Ladin Band showcases their adventurousness with six cover tracks from very different sources, on the heels of two 2019 releases - the fully original Caught On A Wire, and the fully traditional Riding the Rooster.
PLAYING OUR HAND leads off with Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away, apropos as we nervously watch our days slip by. You Gotta Be Hunting the Buffalo is a clever mashup of a favorite 90’s R&B song with an old-time tune. Des’ree’s “You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser” rings ever true as our political situation reels, and has brought gasps of recognition and enthusiasm from audiences. The Carter Family’s collected Bear Creek Blues is even more crooked, with Evie adding snappy guitar licks to her usual banjo leads. A medley of modal public domain songs Polly Put the Kettle On/Lonesome John, the band couches in the #metoo movement - flipping the script on that cache of “rascal” songs. It was the Grateful Dead that brought Evie on her first cross-country trip to California at 19, and Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo from Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter rocks out on thumping banjo. While many people got into old time music from the Dead’s endorsement, Evie long ago went the other way - from traditional music into that community that also prioritized gathering together to dance and play. Finally, Janelle Monae’s bouncy Tightrope (here paired with Joe Thrift's tune Whiteface) worked its way into Evie’s collaboration with the multicultural group Crosspulse, with whom she does educational programs. Everyone in the quintet’s arts come from the African Diaspora, and it is in this group that she has long educated audiences on the roots of Appalachian banjo traditions, in a very funky context. The group teases out this message: “whether you’re high or low, you got to tip on the tightrope.” Life’s got highs and lows, and music will help us through our lowest moments.
released October 2, 2020
Evie Ladin lead vocal, banjo, guitar, feet
Keith Terry vocal, bass
Erik Pearson vocal, guitars
The polyrhythmic heat and funk of Evie Ladin's clawhammer banjo, resonant voice, real stories and rhythmic dance - have been
heard from A Prairie Home Companion to Celtic Connections, Lincoln Center to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. The Evie Ladin Band is an expansive stringband, with Keith Terry - bass and percussion, and Erik Pearson - guitar. Body-slappin neo-trad urban folk....more
supported by 12 fans who also own “Playing Our Hand”
Powerful collection rooted in the stories that must be re-told. Played by some of the most generous community music people I’ve met during my foray into Old Time music.
This CD is a keeper! Ellen B. (Elly) Marshall