Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Kirk Sutphin and Bertram Levy Duo - fiddle and concertina

Kirk Sutphin (L) and Betram Levy (R)
I saw fiddle and banjo player Kirk Sutphin give a performance recently, and during the set break he mentioned to me that he will soon be recording another album of tunes with concertina player Bertram Levy. This is great news because their first album together - "The Bellow and The Bow" - is fast becoming one of my all-time favorite oldtime albums.  This description of the music they make together comes straight from Bretram Levy's website.

Banjos, Bows and Bellows

The Sutphin and Levy duo is probably one of the finest and certainly the most unique old time duos performing today.

Kirk and Bertram share a special bond having both learned their music from the same luminaries in the decades of the 60’s and 70’s. They are deeply grounded in the original versions as well as in the history and source of the music they play, making their concerts a unique musical journey through three centuries of American Fiddle music. As Bertram likes to say, “Playing with Kirk Sutphin transports me back 50 years to the parlors of Henry Reed, Tommy Jarrell and Oscar Wright, when as a young man I learned this music.”

Kirk grew up in Walkertown, North Carolina and at age eight decided to follow his grandfather’s footsteps as a fiddler. As a teenager Kirk studied regularly with Tommy Jarrell and is now recognized as the reincarnation of the Tommy Jarrell style. He is also a masterful banjo player in the style of Fred Cockerham and Charlie Poole.

Bertram began playing the banjo as a fourteen year old and in 1959 moved to the South to immerse himself in old time music. He was one of the original members of the legendary Hollow Rock String Band which is credited with launching the instrumental old time music revival. Their original recording highlighted the music of Henry Reed which is now part of the basic repertoire of today’s old time musicians. During those years, Bertram developed his distinctive clawhammer style and recorded the enduring classic “That Old Gut Feeling “. Recently he published a second concertina tutor entitled “American Fiddle Styles for the Anglo Concertina”.

Together their duo arrangements are complex, adventuresome, and filled with variety using banjos, fiddles and concertina. Each tune is a tapestry on which layers of color and shape are woven. Their new CD “The Bellow and The Bow” has been highly praised for its refreshingly new perspective on the old tunes. As the review from County Records says: “there are 4 good reasons for us to carry this CD…… the fourth being that it is just good music!”

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