Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tunebook Review: Mandolin Uff Da!

I would like to bring attention to one of my favorite tunebooks: Mandolin Uff Da! Let's Dance! Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes and House Party Music by Dix Bruce, which is a collection of tunes from the repertoire of Goose Island Ramblers accordion player Bruce Bollerud and arranged for mandolin. (An accordion version of the book also exists).

Most of the tunes are fairly easy to play - wonderful, memorable melodies straight from the folk traditions of Minnesota and Wisconsin, with strong Scandinavian and German influences. This is music that the 75+ year old Bollerud has been playing all his life; learned as a youth in the Northern Mid-West from old Norwegian fiddlers/farmers and local string band combos (fiddle, accordion, guitar, maybe a banjo). The folk music of this region has not been preserved anywhere near as much as the Southern Appalachian fiddle tunes, for example.

All 28 tunes in the book are written out in both standard sheet music notation and mandolin tablature with chords - in a very easy to read format. Thankfully this book contains a handful of tunes that may have otherwise faded out. Practically all of these tunes were new to me, and in fact there were even some tune types that I hadn't heard of prior to this book (schottische, anyone?). The copy I ordered did not come with a CD, but it came with instructions for how to download these tracks online and that worked out just fine. Each tune on the recording is played at two speeds: a slow version and more up-to-speed. A novice or intermediate player should be able to immediately start playing some of these, even at the faster speed. Although some tunes are going to take a lot of practice to play properly.

The waltzes in particular have more "pop" to them than I would associate with a typical American waltz. Also this music definitely swings with a raggy feel, which I didn’t expect. Highlights for me include Sally’s Hoppwaltz, Ryerson’s Hoppwaltz, Minnesota 6/8 Two Step, Almando’s Polka, Mabel Rag Two Step, Mabel Polka, Johnson’s Rhinelander Schottische, Tobacco Setter’s Waltz, Sugar Candy Schottische and Skjorte Frak Waltz. I doubt I will ever tire of these. Eventually I’d like to learn this complete collection. The book also includes a transcript of an interview with Mr. Bollerud where he talks about the history of this music as well as each individual tune.

If you already play Irish, old-time or bluegrass, these tunes will fit right in with your repertoire. Learn some and take them to your local jams, sessions or contra dance. Others will really enjoy hearing and playing these tunes which you will have discovered!

Watch Dix play three tunes from "Mandolin Uff Da! Let's Dance: Scandinavian Fiddle Tunes & House Party Music."
Mandolin Uff Da! Let's Dance sample "Skorte Frak Waltz"
"Skorte Frak Waltz" MP3
Mandolin Magazine MP3: "Sugar Candy Schottische" audio sample
Bruce Bollerud Interview Excerpt #1 (How Bruce discovered Scandinavian House Party music)
Bruce Bollerud Interview Excerpt #2 (The House Party & Music #1)
Bruce Bollerud Interview Excerpt #3 (The House Party & Music #2)
Bruce Bollerud Interview Excerpt #4 (The House Party & Music #3)
Bruce Bollerud Interview Excerpt #5 (Future of House Party music)
"The Tobacco Setter's Waltz" MP3

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